Secret Internet society pushes anorexia

Feb. 24, 2011 at 2:08 AM

CINCINNATI, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- An Internet secret society is dedicated to thwarting recovery from eating disorders and encourages anorexics to embrace their habit, U.S. researchers say.

University of Cincinnati communication researchers report on a new type of social support group involving the pro-anorexia movement that embraces binge-and-purge eating disorder as a choice rather than acknowledging it as an illness.

Lead author Stephen M. Haas, an associate professor of communication at the University of Cincinnati, says the movement uses several communication strategies to encourage anorexics including:

-- Staying "true" to the anorexia movement by using forums and blogs to discuss eating, binging and exercising, where members can confess their guilt if they feel they have eaten too much or have not exercised enough.

-- Web sites that encourage communications that not only involve loathing of the physical body, but also of one's inner being in confessing feelings of worthlessness and weakness. These negative rants are embraced by other visitors. Messages are accepted and not contradicted, building a shared identity in acknowledging each others' failures.

-- Pro-anorexia advising in how to dealing with confrontations from non-anorexics, such as family.

-- Pro-anorexia encouragement involves affectionate messages that foster group intimacy, encourage anorexic behavior and form a barrier against the disapproval of non-anorexic "outsiders."

The findings are published in the journal New Media & Society.

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