National Eating Disorders Association

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Anon25
pro-ana?

I have posted here before...but my account username for some reason lacked the anonymity I wanted so I started over. I want to thank BobJ (wherever you are) for your kind words and encouragement.

Has anyone's partner/spouse experimented with the pro-ana (or pro-mia) community? basically it is an entire community "supporting" each other through the struggle of their ED. However, the support includes tips on how to avoid "binge eating (eating at all)" and photos of women who are dangerously thin. It is very worshipful, though claims to not be supportive, of ED.

What has anyone's experience been with this? I am unsure how to communicate with my girlfriend about it. I admit that in the last few days I have probably not been supportive of her, and I am sure that I've added to her stress. This fills me with guilt. I just am at a loss. I don't want to watch her turn into nothing. I see that others on here are in that position. I am sorry.

_admin_moderator
edit notification

Hi anon25--we wanted to let you know that your post has been slightly edited for content. Users are not allowed to post links to outside websites (especially anything pro-ana/pro-mia) as these may be triggering for other users. Take a look at our community guidelines (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/community-guidelines) and our page on sharing your story responsibly (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/community/sharing-your-story-res...) for more details. Thanks for helping us keep this a safe space for everyone!

Rodgers12
yes

Hi Anon,

My GF has been in one of those sites for long. I understand this is very alarming for us partners, it is scary. I have to say after months and moths I can't make up my mind about it. She has no contact with other people and talking with them normalizes her feelings and thoughts, that's good and bad on itself. I don't want her to feel alone, but I don't want her to think it's OK to starve or purge or be so skinny that your heath is severely threaten. When she tells me about what she reads, I find good and bad things as well.

This is very sad, but they die. The people she talks to, keep dropping, so this forces her to take her health seriously. As in: someone with anorexia can be really treasured and meaningful... But we lost them, we lost all of that because of the ED. And that leaven friends and family alone and mourning.

What I know is that forbidding her to go there is only going to make her hate me, and she won't listen. It would only accomplish that she is reinforced on the thought that only them can understand her. So it's very delicate.

For long periods of time she chooses freely to not log in there. And she's proud when she does that, and I reinforce that. Same as when she tells me "I haven't used the scale today". I can honestly tell her that I am proud of her. So she really doesn't need me to tell her being there is wrong.

I think the only way for this sites to disappear would be that society were more informed about EDs, and people in general more aware and sensitive to the problem. So they could feel they could talk to more people, not only the ones suffering from the same. There is the only place they feel they're not going to be judged. And it's true that most people are going to be judgmental about it.

We wish it all would be about recovery. But many people with ED are not ready to even hear about recovery, they react strongly against that. We have to remember that not wanting to be better is part of the disorder, it's not something they choose rationally.

I don't know if I helped you or if I'm confusing you more.

BobJ48
Pro Boards

Hey there Anon,

I've been active myself on ED boards for about 17 years now. Mostly on recovery boards, but I am currently quite active on the big one that I believe you both are talking about. Even though I don't have an ED myself, and am "older" and never try and hide that fact.

And you are right about the problematic nature of those places. On the one hand people have a safe place to talk about pretty much anything that's going on in their lives, even if it doesn't have to do with their EDs. On the other hand, you are right about how they can "normalize" unhealthy behaviors.

And it's not like the people who are on there don't understand this. There are frequent discussions about whether the place is good or is bad. In general the members are not dumb about the dynamics of EDs, and are pretty aware of the ways in which their EDs will often try and trick them, and try and mold their thinking in crazy ways. There's some pretty childish stuff that goes on there at times, but there are also members who are older and quite intelligent, and who have been around the block with their EDs enough times that they are able to provide helpful feedback, and will call people out when their thinking starts getting too out of line. So as far as the place being "supportive" , that's probably an accurate description.

Still, there's some pretty terrifying stuff that goes on there too. The ridiculous diets, for one. And all the thinspo and such. "Tips and Tricks" - In general people won't give them out, but if a person snoops around enough they can find them. At something like 9,000 posts a day, a lot of various things go on there, and many different topics get talked about.

But it's accurate to say that no one there wants to see anyone else get sick, or get sicker, so the general vibe is that EDs are nothing a person wants to get wrapped up in, even if the people saying that are totally wrapped up in them themselves, and are still pushing forward with their weight loss.

One thing to realize is that there has always been a huge pro-board somewhere or other on the web, going back to the 1990's, so it's unlikely that big pro boards will go away any time soon.

But yeah, people who go there need to pick and choose what they are going to pay attention to, I think. But with so many posts they kind of forced to.

I won't say how many posts I have there, but it's in the thousands, and I always get favorable responses. So people are open to listening to all sorts of different perspectives I've found.

Which is a big part of being on a huge board like that I believe . By sort of hanging out with "the tribe", it can often help people begin to get a clearer perspective on their situation I think. Despite all of the other stuff that happens there.

But a person would not want to spend all their free time on that place, and when people decide to get better they often leave. And will get congratulated for making that decision. While it's certainly not a recovery board, the idea of recovering and getting therapy is almost always supported, because people there have a pretty good idea of how EDs can ruin their lives.

In any case, I'm probably the wrong person to ask when it comes to an opinion on those places. But a lot of important things do get discussed there, so at least I can testify to that part being true.

Bob J.

Anon25
SO HARD!!

I have seen what goes on, the posts, tips, etc. I see what you both are saying about the not feeling alone. I don't want that for my GF. She tells me that the community there is helpful because she feels like there are people that actually understand. That part makes sense to me. They don't necessarily "promote" ED, but they definitely influence people to engage more. She is VERY ashamed of it and does not want to talk about it that much, which I also get. I just can't get past the thought that I'm just sitting here while she is engaging in something that is so unhealthy. I feel very, very helpless.

BobJ48
Hard.

Dear Anon,

No kidding, those helpless feelings are a lot to try and deal with. We love the person, so it's no wonder that we want to help. It produces a bad feeling in us when so much of it seems out of our hands.

I'm not sure what stage of her ED your GF is in, but it sounds like she's not ignoring her situation, so there's probably hope in that.

Figuring out what we can and cannot do to support our loved ones can be a difficult thing, as I'm sure you are finding out. A lot of it has to do with…how much they allow us to do. If they are plugging away at their ED, and think it's fine, and are not really making any attempts to get better, then that really does leave us in an untenable situation.

It's like in order for us to be supportive, they need to provide us with something to support. If they are trying to get better, then we need to trust them about that, and let them know that we do trust them.

If they are in the stage of their ED where they still think that pressing ahead with their ED is a wonderful accomplishment, then there's really not much we can do. Still, most people with EDs will reach the stage where they begin to realize that they are no longer exerting personal control though their ED habits, but rather that their ED has now come to control them instead.

People can be more open to help and support, once they reach that stage of things, so it's good to have some kind of sense about how they are feeling about that. If she is willing to share those feelings with you, I mean.

Bob J.

Anon25
Just watching...

She has mentioned that part of the pro-ana benefit is that she sees that she's not as far gone as some of the others. I get that, but while she is in these chat groups with them, they are planting seeds in her brain (I feel like) about weight maintenance once she reaches her goal weight.

She was open to and excited for treatment until lack of financial resources made it impossible to go. This happened very recently, and she spiraled downward after that news. I get that. She feels now like therapy is not enough to help her, but there's no "next step." She mentioned that she realizes she is slowly reaching the point where her "logical self" is disappearing and she will be at the "point of no return." She has also mentioned that she understands if I can't be a part of it, and if I feel like I need to end the relationship.

At what point is that the only option? Why are there no options for her? Or are we just not looking in the right places? I have seen some people on these boards who have been in relationships for 10+ years. Am I setting myself up for a life of emotional/mental turmoil? I am afraid. But I have very strong feelings for her and I care for her so, so much. I know this disordered eating is not her fault, and I want to be there with and for her.

BobJ48
What next….

Anon,

Sorry to be slow to get back to you. I was on the road for a couple of days.

"She has mentioned that part of the pro-ana benefit is that she sees that she's not as far gone as some of the others. I get that, but while she is in these chat groups with them, they are planting seeds in her brain (I feel like) about weight maintenance once she reaches her goal weight."

Yeah, in some sense those groups do give people a perspective. They can see what it's like when people's thinking really does get carried away, and can see what can happen to them when it does. So that can be a caution it's true. At the same it should not be one of those things where they use that info to see how close to the edge they can get. As far as "maintaining" goes, I'm never sure how successful people are with that. Life's struggles, and the ways they are reflected in people's eating, can make that part uncertain for sure.

" She was open to and excited for treatment until lack of financial resources made it impossible to go. This happened very recently, and she spiraled downward after that news. "

Things like that are tough alright, and I don't know of any country that does well for people in that regard. I can understand where her disappointment might have caused her eating to get worse. Since EDs have such a close association with the theme of control, when things in life do seem out of control, it's probably no surprise that they turn to their behaviors again.

" She feels now like therapy is not enough to help her, but there's no "next step." She mentioned that she realizes she is slowly reaching the point where her "logical self" is disappearing and she will be at the "point of no return." "

Hard to say about those sorts of feelings. It's probably good that she has some perspective on the direction her thinking is heading, but it would be good if she felt that there was something she could do to turn that around. People with EDs can let things get overly dramatic at times it's true, but it's possible that things could turn around too.

" She has also mentioned that she understands if I can't be a part of it, and if I feel like I need to end the relationship. "

Yep, the not wanting to be a burden thing. And the "unworthiness" thing too. Both of these are quite common feelings among people with EDs. So it's not just her own big idea I mean. Lots of people in her position end up feeling that way.

" At what point is that the only option? Why are there no options for her? Or are we just not looking in the right places? "

You may want to talk with the NEDA people about this. One keeps hearing about various small advocacy groups that offer scholarships for people who can't afford to do treatment programs. I'm not sure how easy it is to get one, but it can't hurt to look into this. The NEDA people would know more about this.

" I have seen some people on these boards who have been in relationships for 10+ years. Am I setting myself up for a life of emotional/mental turmoil? "

It's not going to be easy I suspect, and a person would want to get an idea of what direction their potential partner was heading, I would think , before they tied the knot. From a pragmatic standpoint I mean. But when it comes to matters of the heart, we really can't expect to be practical I think. Assuming we have one that is.

So it's a matter of what we find ourselves willing to take on, I think. And that's an individual decision for everyone. But I'd advise against the "rescuing" or "love is all you need" approach, as I'm not sure that either of those are enough. The dynamics of recovery are much more subtile than that.

Bob J.

Anon25
Leaving Boards...

Unfortunately, my girlfriend discovered these message boards and saw the things I have written about her and our relationship. I no longer feel like this is a safe space for me, but I really feel like I need to be able to vent and learn from others who are experiencing these things.
Much love.

BobJ48
Anon 25

Hey Anon,

Well, I suspect she might agree that if she needs support, it's not unusual that you might need support too. If you guys have been spying on each other's posts, then maybe you both could agree not to do that ?

It would be interesting to know if she felt what you wrote was inaccurate, or what others wrote here was inaccurate too ?

Most of the folks I talk with on "those boards" pretty much understand that things like this are hard for their SOs. Even though they would prefer it to be otherwise, most people I know who have EDs are able to be fairly realistic about that part. And might also agree that anything their SOs can do to gain more understanding, or make things less stressful for themselves is a good thing for both of them really.

In any case, if lurking helps some I hope that you will. And perhaps your GF will change her mind too. You both need chances to vent I would think, and from her own experiences on boards, I suspect that she might understand that part.

Bob J.

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