Shocking new research conducted by The Priory Group has revealed that pro-anorexia websites – often dubbed ‘pro-ana’ – are selling merchandise such as bracelets to promote eating disorders.
The site, My Pro Ana is a key example. It advertises its weave bracelet as a product that helps sufferers “meet” other anorexics, and acts as a reminder for them to “stay true” to their diet.
Even more worrying is the fact that the bracelets are out of stock, and there are several reviews published which celebrate the product and its aims.
One review under the bracelet reads:
“This bracelet is worth every single penny. The detail is phenomenal. When I put it on I am constantly reminded that I am never alone and I am strong enough to make it.”
Pro-anorexia websites have boomed with the advancement of technologies and increased access to the Internet. It is estimated there are now between 400 and 500 in existence, with some claiming to have over 2000 members.
A number of studies have explored the disturbingly high use of these sites and how they have helped to contribute to the rise in eating disorders among young people.
In light of the recent findings, Dr Alexander Yellowlees, Medical Director at the Priory Hospital in Glasgow and consultant psychiatrist specialising in the treatment of eating disorders, reiterates the dangers they pose:
“These sites are enormously negative, particularly if the individual already has this illness. They are definitely designed to help sufferers become more effective in their methods. They fuel the pursuit of thinness and encourage the anorexic drive.”
He adds that pro-anorexia websites selling merchandise, like My Pro Ana are taking advantage of vulnerable users – fostering a false sense of community in order to make a profit:
“It’s like having a drinking club for alcoholics where you can learn how to drink more effectively. They are encouraging anorexia and seem to be trying to make money from the illness, like having a happy hour for alcoholics.”