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WWW.Warning -- Negative Internet Sites

Something Fishy cannot and will not provide a list of websites or books that are particularly triggering or self-defeating in nature... Below is a general summary on negative internet sites and how it can hurt you if you suffer with an Eating Disorder -- or what to watch out for if you suspect your loved-one has an Eating Disorder.

In additional to all the signs and symptoms, it is important to elaborate a bit on a relatively modern phenomenon that has become another signal that you yourself have an Eating Disorder, are on your way to one, or suspect a loved-one may suffer.

Before the growth of the internet, before people got online to find what they were looking for, a great number of sufferers of Anorexia and Bulimia would, and still do, immerse themselves in books on the topic. There are several reasons for this...

  • They don't want to feel alone
  • They want to read stories from people they can relate to
  • They want to convince themselves what they are doing is okay
  • They want to be "triggered" (given incentive to stay in their disordered patterns, or given reasons they feel they can use to justify hating themselves)
  • Find "tips" on how to engage in behaviors
  • Find "tips" on how to hide their behaviors

It has been written for years that one of the classic signs and symptoms that someone is suffering with Anorexia or Bulimia is that they read a lot on the topic. They are often well educated on their disorder, and a great number of them know all the physical risks. Because these are a psychological illnesses though, the risks alone are never enough to "just stop".

In this current day and age of the computer and the internet, this reading symptom has taken a new form for some -- particularly the younger generation. They are now drawn to read a lot about Eating Disorders on the internet.

There are many sites out there that are positive, helpful and geared at recovery (including this site here) -- but there are also many sites that have cropped up that are not-so recovery oriented. To the contrary, there are sites out there promoting Eating Disorders as a lifestyle, to the detriment of their visitors. They are often highlighted in the media, and there are other Eating Disorders organizations that actively work at getting these types of site removed from the internet, when possible.

The reasons for visiting these types of negative sites are virtually the same as the reasons listed above for reading specific types of ED books, with one clear difference...

  • They don't want to feel alone
  • They want to read and exchange stories from and with people they can relate to
  • They want to convince themselves what they are doing is okay, and have others validate it for them
  • They want to be "triggered" (given incentive to stay in their disordered patterns, or given reasons they feel they can use to justify hating themselves)
  • Find and exchange "tips" on how to engage in behaviors
  • Find and exchange "tips" on how to hide their behaviors

The internet is interactive, so many of these sites offer bulletin boards where people can virtually "talk" to one another. They form friendships and on some level, find some understanding with each other. They do feel less alone.

The problem is that for a person suffering, or even for someone attempting to recover, visiting these negative types of sites exposes them to so much triggering content that it becomes like a crack addict walking into a crack house... or an alcoholic walking into a liquor store. These sites are very triggering, contain lots of talk about weight-loss and why being skinny is so important, have goal-weights and tips listed, and have pictures of very thin and even emaciated people to aspire to be like.

Sites that promote or encourage Eating Disorders as a "lifestyle choice" are dangerous for a number of reasons.

  • People with an Eating Disorder are often in denial about how serious their eating disorder is... or they may feel they know how to "control it" so they don't ever get too sick. Staying in an environment that helps them to continue to kid themselves can be a dangerous game to play. Staying in an environment that helps them justify their behaviors as "normal" or "okay" can be a deadly game to play.

  • People who suffer with Eating Disorders are often seeking acceptance from those around them. If the way to get accepted on one of these sites is to be "part of the group", they join the group mentality of trying to lose more weight, or be "the best" at the behaviors.

  • People who are suffering with Eating Disorders often have a very low self-esteem. To be surrounded by other people toting how their behaviors make them feel great may help them to justify to themselves that restricting, purging and using other dangerous methods is a good way to feel better.

  • People with an Eating Disorders often feel neglected, or like they need attention. They can feel unheard or invisible (and sometimes in realtime life they want to have their emotions be invisible). If they are competing for attention in a negative environment, it can lead to negative attention seeking -- negative behaviors -- competition to be the thinnest or the sickest to get that negative attention.

  • The nature of Eating Disorder often lends itself to deception -- lying about eating and hiding the behaviors. Being on a site that encourages a sufferer to continue to do so is feeding directly into the illness.

  • People with Eating Disorders often use it as a coping mechanism. If they are not challenged to find better ways to cope, or encouraged to use healthier coping skills, they can continue to justify their negative patterns as okay.

  • Having an Eating Disorder often means hiding your feelings -- or stuffing them down -- or feeling as though you have no right to talk about them -- or attempting to feel numb. A sufferer can feel like their emotions are insignificant. If they are encouraged to talk about nothing except weight and food and behaviors, there is no incentive for them to address or work on healing from any of the underlying issues and emotions. In other words, these negative types of websites encourage them to stay immersed in their behaviors and far away from their feelings.

  • People suffering with an Eating Disorder often isolate themselves. Staying online surrounded by people just as sick as you, encouraging you to stay sick, and not encouraging you to work on recovery, is another way to isolate. Being online with virtual "buddies" is to isolate further. Being online with virtual "buddies" who talk excessively about weight, food and how to be thin is to isolate with the Eating Disorder further.

If you yourself suffer with an Eating Disorder, please consider why you visit negative websites that promote Eating Disorders as a good way to lose weight. Please know that you can feel less alone by visiting sites that offer hope, or by talking to someone in realtime. Most of you already know the physical dangers of engaging in these behaviors and recognizing those risks isn't incentive enough to stop -- but at least give yourself the opportunity to find your own incentive to work on it.

If you suspect your child or loved-one is suffering with an Eating Disorder, watch where they go on the internet. Though blocking software can be good, don't always rely on it... you'd be surprised how well kids know their way around the computer -- and they DO know how to delete the internet history to cover their tracks. Limit online access. Consider parental controls through a router-based solution (like LinkSys). Stay involved in knowing where they go on the internet. Be aware these sites are out there -- and you'll know them when you see them. The vast majority of them are very much upfront about what they are and what they are doing.

There are online communities that promote recovery. Our own bulletin board for support does just that. We have rules in place for safety (no numbers, no tips) and monitors who constantly watch the boards. We set up these rules years ago, even before these negative types of sites began to appear, with all of the reasons above in mind. We wanted to provide as safe an atmosphere as possible that could promote recovery and give sufferers a place to talk about their real emotions.

Also read: This is a PRO-Recovery Website


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