The anorexic online community is booming. And according to a recent study published in the journal Health Communication, blogging about anorexia is not necessarily a bad thing.
Even though "pro-ana" blogs are controversial, researchers found that anorexics writing about their illness provides a way to express themselves without judgment, which may ultimately prove crucial to their treatment.
"From the outside looking in, this looks like a really disturbing community, but I think that the fact that these women are able to find support from one another and find a place where someone understands what they're going through is a really good thing," said Nicole Martins, an assistant professor of telecommunications at IU College of Arts and Sciences.
It's currently estimated that more than 11 million Americans alone suffer from eating disorders, a potentially fatal mental illness that causes both men and women to deliberately lose between 15 and 60 percent of their body weight.
Controversially, the blogs feature song lyrics, music and photos that pro-ana writers call "thinspiration." They have also been found to share weight loss tips, and strategies for concealing their disorder.
Many sites have been shut down, but site administrators have been persistent in getting their message out there. And exactly what message are these blogs sending? That it's good to be anorexic?
Researchers believe the motive of blogging has more to do with building a safe community and gaining support than selling a 'lifestyle' or outlook. But what about when you are being supported for your illness? Surely this is counterintuitive to recovery...
Only 20 percent of 33 female bloggers surveyed indicated that they were seeking help, one of whom claimed that writing "gave her the skills to talk about her illness in the recovery process."
"The fact that disordered eating is such a solitary and isolating experience makes the Internet an ideal place for offering support and advice," wrote the researchers.