Pro-anorexia, pro- bulimia websites encourage dangerous behavior - FOX 35 News Orlando

Pro-anorexia, pro- bulimia websites encourage dangerous behavior

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

DISCLAIMER: Some images may be graphic.

The images are disturbing, rail thin women promoted as beautiful, their bodies showing bones touted as the desirable look.

These are the images of the Pro-Ana culture.

"You look at these sites there are horrific images of people who are very sick, promoting themselves as being role models in the life choice of having anorexia," Timberline Knolls Medical Director, Dr. Kim Dennis, said.

Dr. Kim Dennis is the Medical Director at Timberline Knolls, a residential treatment center for eating disorders in suburban Lemont.

She says when women battling eating disorders immerse themselves in these websites it makes it all the more difficult to get them to realize they need help.

"And the lies and the culture become part of their identity which they see as their true identity," Dr. Dennis said.

Thirty-one-yea-old Mandy Friell has been battling eating disorders since middle school, but she says her problem with body image actually began in elementary school.

"I didn't like the way I looked, so I started restricting around middle school and then I was introduced to purging from some girls that I went to school with," Friell said.

The purging, she says, got so bad she was doing it ten times a day.

She herself visited websites that promoted eating disorders, which she says contributed to her disease.

Mandy's first time in rehab was at age 18. She recently finished a 16 month stay at Timberline Knolls, her 14th time in rehab.

=Those efforts usually lost to the power of her disease.

"Actually when I was 25 I was sent home, I didn't have anyone that would work with me anymore, in Phoenix, and they asked my parents where they would rather have me die, in Phoenix or in Wisconsin with them," Friell said.

There are many sites promoting something called "thinspiration," a culture which pushes diets with dangerously low caloric intakes.

Others tout the "Thin Commandments" which preach "if you aren't thin you aren't attractive," "being thin is more important than being healthy" and "what the scale says is the most important thing."

All lies that Mandy bought into.

"For me in the past, looking at a number on a scale was, I guess, how I measured my self worth, and I always wanted the number to be smaller than what it was, " Friell said.

Dr. Dennis says an estimated nine million young American women suffer from eating disorders, up to 24 million when you include women and men of all ages.

"On a physical level, anorexia carries the highest mortality rate of any of the mental illnesses," Dr. Dennis said.

Dr. Dennis says the websites don't usually cause someone to become anorexic, it's usually people predisposed to having an eating disorder who will visit them.

Mandy, who now works at Timberline Knolls, says she never realized how destructive the disease was in her life and wants to help others fight it.

"It's really not something that you really want to dabble in, because it can turn into, it's a very deadly disease, it kills a lot of people," Friell said.

For more information on how to help those with eating disorders, or recognize the signs, visit the National Eating Disorder or National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders online.

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