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Signs of Eating Disorders
Thinspiration is a dangerous trend that parents and others whose loved one has an eating disorder should be aware of. This article explains many forms thinspiration, and offers tips for parents on signs of teens looking for thinspiration. Learn tips on how to protect teens.
Many teens with eating disorders, especially anorexia and bulimia, want to feel normal or to be motivated to lose more weight and to resist recovery. Thinspiration, or thinspo, is media that encourages teens to perpetuate their anorexia, bulimia, or other unhealthy eating patterns.
Thinspiration can take many forms:
Thinspiration pictures usually do not show faces, and try to emphasize shadows and bone rather than flesh. They may look corpse-like. In many cases they are also doctored to create an impossibly-thin image. Sometimes the images are presented together with text or music that glamorize thinness. Thinspiration images tend to lower self-esteem and increase the desire to be thinner, particularly in young women.
These things are all considered triggers, which encourage a person with an eating disorder to resist recovery and continue their dangerous habits. For many teens with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, the disease is about control, perfectionism, competitiveness, and suffering, and thinspiration encourages them to embrace their disease. It can also be a form of rebellion or lashing out against the pressure to confront and overcome their eating disorder.
Unfortunately, eating disorders are often deadly, and thinspiration may discourage people from seeking help. Many people who are anorexic or bulimic have a warped view of themselves and the world, and thinspiration helps to reinforce their views and to drive them to be excessively thin rather than trying to be healthier.
Thinspiration is generally found through electronic media, especially the Internet. Pro-anorexia (Pro-Ana) or pro-bulimia (Pro-Mia) websites are fairly common on the Internet, and most of these sites include pictures, sayings, and other "inspiration" to encourage eating disorders in teens.
Though these Internet sites claim to be targeted to people who already have eating disorders, they are also visited by other teens, especially young girls, who are concerned about their weight and want to learn weight loss tips. In Britain, a study found that 1 in 4 eleven-year-old girls had looked online for weight loss advice, and a third of teens used the Internet as a source of dieting tips. A third of teens also reported that images of celebrities made them want to be thinner. These thinspiration web sites can be dangerous because they glorify anorexia and bulimia and teach teens how to embrace and hide eating disorders.
Some things parents can do to protect vulnerable teens from thinspiration include:
Jessica Reaves, Time, Health and Science, "Anorexia Goes High Tech" [online]
Grace Overbeke, Mind Matters: The Wesleyan Journal of Psychology, "Pro-Anorexia Websites: Content, Impact, and Explanations of Popularity"
Lynell George, Los Angeles Times, "Nurturing an Anorexia Obsession" [online]
Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times Magazine, "Narrow Minded" [online]
The Daily Mail, "One in five 11-year-old girls search 'pro-anorexia' websites for tips on staying skinny" [online]
Jacqueline Head, BBC News, "Seeking 'thinspiration'" [online]
Newsweek, "Out of the Shadows" [online]
Related Article: Pro Ana Mia Websites >>