Thursday, September 9, 2010

The anorexic relationship - Part 2.

The internet really does provide some interesting insights into the human psyche at times. An example of this is the Pro-ana (Pro-anorexia) websites. I had look at these a few years ago and then a couple of days ago. There are now hundreds which I found in a few minutes so there are probably many thousands of them out there.

For example:

Pro Ana Tips and Tricks

Pro ana sites here’s a list of great sites

A most interesting social phenomena to arise via the internet.

Here is some information from them

There is no such thing as an eating disorder. People have anorexic and bulimic life styles because they pursue perfection. Just like elite athletes, musicians and others pursue it. Perfection is beauty

Pro-ana 10 commandments
1. If you aren't thin you aren't attractive.
2. Being thin is more important than being healthy.
3. You must buy clothes, style your hair, take laxatives, starve yourself, do anything to make yourself look thinner.
4. Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty.
5. Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterwards.
6. Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly.
7. What the scale says is the most important thing.
8. Losing weight is good/gaining weight is bad.
9. You can never be too thin.
10. Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and success.

Amy winehouse..

Secrecy tips
Don't bring up the subject of food around other people. Have your excuses for not eating ready in case they should bring the subject up. Some excuses I use : "My stomach's a little upset", "I'm too (tired, excited, nervous, busy, etc) to eat", "I don't feel like (whatever food it is), I'll get something later", "I did eat, didn't you see?", and "I stopped by (Burger King, Subway, etc) earlier".

Don't deny everything if confronted. People will believe a little truth with a big lie much easier than a huge lie. Act as if it's no big deal instead of reacting emotionally and people will tend to believe you.

Watch where you dispose of uneaten food or other "evidence", make sure that it isn't going to be seen or found by anyone. Wrap food up and throw it away outside the house. If you live alone, always take the trash out before anyone else comes over.


In the previous post on the anorexic relationship I mentioned how food refusal was a very primal and basic act of rebellion. I think it is safe to say that these comments placed for public viewing on the internet are a rebellious and defiant act at least in part. These people know how some others will react to them and that will be with the Critical Parent ego state.

Guess what?
Now we have Anti Pro-ana websites or comments on the internet

Anorexia on the internet

Pro-ana website dangerous to young women

Pro-ana websites

This last one makes the interesting statement
“Many sites treat eating disorders as lifestyle choices, rather than the illnesses they truly are”. (end quote)

Two things I would like to say. First this demonstrates the anorexic relationship dynamic of the RC and CP transactions. The pro-ana sites are being ‘naughty’ and doing things which they know authority wont like and that authority will respond by ‘scolding’ them.

RC: “I am going to hurt myself in front of you and you try and stop me”.
CP: “You shouldn’t do that and I will try and stop you, (in this instances by trying to ban Pro-ana websites)”.

Dogs and pig

This transactional dynamic will perpetuate the anorexic behaviour such that the psychology behind the anorexic behaviour is reinforced. In this case the dynamic is being played out over the internet instead of between counsellor and anorexic in the therapy room or hospital and anorexic on the inpatient ward. This model presents anorexia as a relational experience.

It also shows how the anorexic can force the authority to become involved. The anti pro-ana sites are correct. The information provided by the pro-ana sites will adversely affect some young girls who read them. So what does the authority do?

If they do nothing, thus avoiding playing into the anorexic relationship and thus don’t reinforce the anorexic behaviour young girls will continue to be adversely effected. If they act to have the information stopped then they play into the anorexic relationship. Then it is highly likely the authority will be perceived as CP by the anorexic even if they are not being CP.

In addition.
Why aren’t there pro-depressive or pro-insomniac websites which provide secrecy tips or promote insomnia and depression? Why are there no websites promoting an insomniac or depressive life style?

Maybe because these conditions do not have a rebellious aspect like anorexia and anorexia involves a style of relating whereas depression and insomnia do not. Depression and insomnia don’t need an insomnia relationship or depressive relationship for the condition to continue like anorexia does.

Gemma Ward

There is however also a healthy aspect to pro-ana websites. A person with anorexia has been told over and over either covertly or overtly that she is sick, dumb, naughty, bad, selfish, neurotic and so on endlessly.

At least some of the Pro-ana websites are saying:
“I’m anorexic and I’m OK”, with comments that follow the statement before:

“Many sites treat eating disorders as lifestyle choices, rather than the illnesses they truly are”.

This may be the Free Child aspect of the anorexic saying, “I want to survive and grow towards health”. They reject what the helping professionals say to them about being sick, neurotic and so forth. They say I am a good person even if I choose the anorexic life style. From a therapeutic point of view this is a most positive move. It is going to reduce the psychopathology due to the acceptance of self as OK no matter how they live.

This exposes an inherent contradiction in all psychotherapy and counselling. On the one hand the therapist says to the client that they are ok and good and acceptable. However, the therapist also says there is actually something wrong with you or you wouldn’t need to come to therapy in the first place. By the very act of me being a therapist I am saying to the client that there is something in you that needs to be changed and the Child ego state of the client is very likely to take this as it having something wrong with it or is bad about it.

The pro-ana websites are rejecting this contradiction and thus it is a healthy move by them.

As you can see the pro-ana movement is a most interesting phenomena which is quite complex and has both good and bad aspects to it.



  1. So... everything cancels everything out which in turn re-instates everyting back to it's original position?

    And vice versa?

  2. Perhaps the lack of pro depression or pro anxiety sites has something to do with the fact that being thin is supported by the media (celebrities, models etc.)? That being thin suggests being in control, being strong, not being weak and greedy etc.

    Thinness is rewarded and therefore ties in with perfection and goodness. It makes the desire to change the mindset a challenge when society supports a thin person and villifies an overweight person.

    Often if one manages to overcome anorexia it is replaced by something else (food control, over exercise, extreme diets). Which I suppose is better than starvation or purging.

    It's a messy state of mind that needs management. It has nothing to do with vanity either.

  3. I'm not much into the matter but Tony - you can write about anything and it's always interesting and inspiring :) thank you :)

  4. Well Roses,

    You could say that.

    Like you did!


  5. Hello Zbig,

    thank you for your kind comments.


  6. That is a good statement Linda,
    athough I don't agree with your first premise.
    My thesis is that pro depression groups dont exist because anorexia is a relationship based condition whereas depression is not.

    But you do seem to make some good statements about the psychology of media, thin, greedy, mindsets and so forth. Are you speaking from experience? If so I would like to hear more.


  7. The ProAna sites give the individual the best tools to maintain the self control. Believe me, the mantra's work their magic in times of, for want of a better word, weakness.

    The feeling of personal inner strength and self control increases as the numbers on the scale drop.

  8. Your diplomacy and ability to perceive this controversial topic through multiples perspectives is admirable.

    However, Eating Disorder Hope is firmly in the camp of Pro-Recovery because it supports health and well being. We feel that the energy devoted to the Pro Ana lifestyle could be more usefully directed toward developing the individual's gifts, talents and contributions toward making the world a better place.

    We have taken a position as a powerful agent of pro-recovery lifestyles in an Internet still filled with too many voices promoting deadly pro-eating disorder lifestyles and behaviors.

    Thank you for your consideration of our perspective.

    Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC
    Director/Founder @ Eating Disorder Hope

    You can read more about us in our press release of yesterday at: