The stereotype of those suffering from eating disorders is often that they're incredibly private, going to great lengths to hide their disordered behavior. But according to Newsweek, many teen anorexics are using Facebook to flaunt their extreme thinness. Dr. Steven Crawford, associate director of the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore, tells Newsweek that these Facebook admissions are a form of rebellion: "It's almost like putting it in your face: I have an eating disorder. I am anorexic." The girls who are part of these online covens of disordered eating say they're simultaneously cries for help and a way to justify their behavior.A 17-year-old named Rose says:
These sites provided a setting where I could talk about the illness without people trying to fix me or tell me that what I'm doing is horrible, disgusting, maladaptive. For me, part of the illness was just about getting attention. You feel so lonely and you want someone to notice you, and I guess that's kind of the way to do it, even with other sick people.
And the other sick people will definitely notice you: Facebook reportedly shut down a group "as well as the Facebook account of its creator, a girl who would encourage others to post their pictures online and then harshly detail their 'problem areas.'" However, coming out publicly as an anorexic is not always negative. Singer Juliana Hatfield tells the Guardian that blogging about her experience in an eating disorder clinic helped her get through it. "I needed to reach out to people. I needed support from anywhere I could find it. I wanted to tell the truth and let people know what was going on," she says. It's important to note that the line between helpful and hurtful when it comes to internet discussion of eating disorders is very thin (no pun intended). According to Newsweek, a recent study shows "50 percent of teens who visited sites ostensibly devoted to eating disorder recovery also learned new weight-loss tips." Navigating the internet for someone susceptible to eating issues is definitely a minefield. Out Of The Shadows [Newsweek] 'A Heart That Hurts Is A Heart That Works. I Will Beat My Anorexia' [The Guardian]