Position Statement: Pro-Anorexia Web Sites
The Academy for Eating Disorders, the world's largest professional organization for those who work with individuals suffering from eating disorders, is extremely concerned about the proliferation of "pro-anorexia" Web sites.
We understand that Yahoo, the server for a large number of these sites, has removed them because of concerns about the safety of children; others, including MSN, have not.
Anorexia nervosa is a devastating illness that affects up to 1 percent of young women; however, symptoms of anorexia including significant calorie restriction and preoccupation with weight and thinness affect many more individuals, and are also associated with negative emotional and physical consequences.
The starvation behavior seen in anorexia nervosa can affect every organ system and can lead to decreases in bone mass, osteoporosis, changes in the brain, heart problems, and ultimately, death.
One of the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa is denial of the seriousness of the illness; thus websites that glorify anorexia as a lifestyle choice play directly to the psychology of its victims.
There is always a creative tension between respecting the right of free speech and protecting vulnerable individuals, particularly children. It's important to note that the peak age of onset of eating disorders is during adolescence, and thus these sites target largely an audience of children.
The Web sites pose a danger in that they promote anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle, provide support and encouragement to engage in health threatening behaviors, and neglect the serious consequences of starvation.
The Academy for Eating Disorders is committed to using our resources and collective influence to communicate that eating disorders are serious illnesses that can have devastating consequences for those who suffer from them.
We work with the media, eating disorders advocacy groups, and patients and families to influence public opinion, shape public policy, and promote effective treatment of eating disorders. We can only hope that our activities, and those of numerous other organizations, can counteract the effects of these Web sites and other forces that glamorize these serious disorders.