Call to get tough on eating disorder sites

The number of 'pro-ana' websites has soared

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RC Psych) is calling for urgent action to protect vulnerable young people from eating-disorder websites.

It says the number of websites promoting eating disorders has soared with the growth of social networking.

The RC Psych wants the government’s Child Internet Safety Council (UKCCIS) to mark such sites as harmful and raise awareness among parents and teachers.

It has called on UKCCIS, which was established a year ago, to expand its definition of harmful web content to include what it calls pro-ana anorexia) and pro-mia (bulimia) websites.

Professor Ulrike Schmidt, chair of the RC Psych’s eating disorders section, said: ‘Pro-ana and pro-mia websites advocate anorexia nervosa or bulimia ervosa as a lifestyle choice, rather than as serious mental disorders. Research shows that, even for healthy young women, viewing such websites induces low mood, low self-esteem and increased body dissatisfaction.’

Susan Ringwood of the eating disorder charity, Beat, welcomed the RC Psych’s position on pro-anorexia websites. But she said: ‘We know that banning sites will not deal with the root causes of this challenging and misunderstood condition.’

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