Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
One of the very great dangers for those with Anorexia are the pro anorexia web sites. These sites actually promote restricting food and losing weight. In effect, what these sites do is lend support to a dangerous, life threatening illness to a group of people who are already living in a delusional world. Just for clarification, a delusion is a false and unrealistic form of thinking that is recognized by most people when they hear the word, “paranoia.” However, paranoia, or unreal suspicious thoughts, is just one of many types of delusions. In Anorexia the delusion is that the patient sees him or herself as obese even though they are dangerously skinny. Even when the anorectic looks in the mirror they see fat regardless of how thin they are. Then, the delusion is further exaggerated by the conviction that more weight must be lost. This illness can and does lead to death if left untreated.
Those with Anorexia turn to pro Anorexia web sites for a number of reasons:
1. They don’t want to feel alone.
2. They want to read stories from people they can relate to. The anorectic reads books, journals and nutrition articles on this illness.
3. They want to convince themselves what they are doing is okay
4. They want to be given incentives to stay in their eating disordered patterns.
5. They want to find “tips” on how to engage in anorectic behaviors.
6. They want to find “tips” on how to hide their behaviors.
In other words, the pro anorexia sites provide a community that fully supports and encourages anorectic behaviors. There are even forums where it’s easy to communicate with others who have the same illness.
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The term “trigger” is often used in dealing with addictions. To many people Anorexia is an addiction and has many triggering cues that set off episodes of dieting and losing weight. It’s similar to some with alcohol addiction walking past a liquor store and feeling a surge of temptation to drink. This temptation is almost impossible to resist. Pro Anorexia web sites provide plenty of triggers that set off anorectic behaviors. For an anorectic, there is nothing more triggering than talking with others about Anorexia and reading about it as well. In fact, if there are photographs of others with Anorexia, a lot of comparison occurs with the conclusion that “I am so fact and I’m jealous of those others.”
There are many web sites that promote recovery from eating disorders. One of the best is:
At “Somethingfishy.com there is lots of information about how to recognize symptoms of having an eating disorder including where to find professional help in order to make a full recovery. They also have an interactive community that is geared towards helping people end their denial about having the illness. In addition, there are many people who are fully recovered from eating disorders who share their stories and encourage recovery.
In the next blog we will discuss what you can say and what you should not say to someone with an eating disorder.
Your comments, stories and questions are encouraged.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
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