Pro-Anorexia Sites Draw Alarming Numbers of Korean Teens

  • By Kim Su-jin

    September 28, 2019 08:27

    Pro-anorexia websites and social media accounts are starting to draw alarming numbers of Korean teens as well.

    Young people, mostly girls, who promote the bizarre "pro-ana" trend do not eat properly and starve themselves until their weight drops to 30-40 kg. When they do eat a proper meal, they feel guilty and exhibit bulimia symptoms of binging and forcing themselves to vomit.

    Kim Yul-li, a psychiatrist at Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital says, "Teenagers often come across these pages when they look for information on dieting, and they often unquestioningly accept the extreme anorexic look as beautiful."

    Anorexia, whether willed or pathological, can cause many health problems such as malnutrition, osteoporosis, heart disease, hair loss and depression.

    It is more harmful to teenagers because their brains and bodies are still developing and are being systematically deprived of nutrients, leading to irregular menstruation, stunted growth, and in extreme cases death.

    "Eating disorders like anorexia have high fatality rates. One out of 10 people with eating disorders eventually die from them," said Shin Yun-mi at Ajou University Hospital. "Eating disorders are mostly found in teenage girls. They harm both metal and physical health, so they need to be treated as fast as possible."

    But anorexia is notoriously difficult to combat because it is not only an individual illness but also shaped by social and cultural influences. "The media constantly deliver messages about body ideals and make people want to lose weight," Shin said.

    Ways to prevent the disease from taking chronic hold include blocking any pro-anorexia information, avoiding weighing scales, and building self-confidence and a positive body image.

    "Girls tend to feel happy when their appearance changes, but the feeling lasts only for about six months," said Kim Jin-se, a psychiatrist who runs a clinic. "Finding a hobby that makes happiness last longer can help."

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