"In other words, people living with eating disorders are not purposely making unhealthy or health-compromising decisions. They are trying to find the best way they can to live with this disorder," the researchers wrote.
"I think that's encouraging that a majority don't look at it as a lifestyle," Martins said. "The silver lining is there that if they realize that it's a disease, then maybe they'll eventually seek help for it. But right now this is how they're coping."
While most studies make the claim that pro-ana websites promote and maintain anorexia by sharing tips for weight loss and concealing the disorder, only five bloggers mentioned this as a reason to start their blogs.
"Participants in this research, except for shutting down their blogs, did actively engage in ways to warn their audience about the content and ignored or blocked requests for tips and tricks from what they nicknamed 'wannarexics' -- young teenagers who want to become anorexic," the paper said.
Yeshua-Katz and Martins hope their research provides the medical community with greater understanding of the people they are treating. One of the bloggers they spoke to expressed difficulty finding "recovery" blogs and still follows the pro-ana blogs because "it's hard to totally abandon them."
"For example, they were missing a 24-hour support place," Yeshua-Katz said. "We need to see what about (the pro-ana blogs) is drawing people into the community and design blogs for recovery that offer the same kind of useful information so the recovery will work.
"By knowing what they're doing in those blogs, we might be able to find better ways to provide online support," she added.
The paper also highlights a major paradox for the pro-ana community. "They go online to vent out and to relieve stress. But then by having their blog, by having their secret life, it adds another level of stress to their life,
|Contact: George Vlahakis|