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Thursday
Apr192012

Internet Crackdown on Pro-Anorexia Sites

Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two years ago, when Madeleine Bowman began treatment for anorexia, she stopped looking at a pro-anorexia website that for years had served as her community and her source for ideas to nurture her secret illness.

But on Tuesday, she was curious and decided to take a look.  Fortunately, her login had expired.

Bowman 26, of New York, is in recovery from a decade-long battle with anorexia, she said.

She'd stumbled upon the website in eighth grade, after googling "eating disorders."  Bowman had been skipping meals to lose weight and she wanted to find out if she was anorexic.  She then visited the site often to find new ways to hide her condition from friends and family.

Given the many social aggregators that spread information to wider and wider audiences, Bowman says that today it would be even easier for someone to find their way to a pro-anorexia site.

However, that might not be the case for much longer.  In March, social sites like Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest announced they will remove posts and website information that could promote eating disorders.

This move is one of many efforts that signal a shift in how the public views eating disorders, according to Claire Mysko, project manager of Proud2BMe.org, a website that promotes awareness of eating disorders.

Mysko, who has worked in the field of eating disorders for more than a decade, said the stigma surrounding the disorder is decreasing.  More people are willing to talk about their problem, and more are willing to speak up against the unhealthy behavior, she said.

"There aren't as many who are feeling that ashamed," said Mysko.  "We're making progress in that area."

The shift in how eating disorders are viewed suggests that prevention and treatment efforts may be working.  Hospitalizations for people with eating disorders dropped 23 percent between 2007 and 2008, according to the latest findings from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  This decline was the first ever noted by the federal agency since it began tracking hospitalizations in 1999.

The drop, though, some experts say, may largely be due to the lack of insurance coverage on designated treatments for eating disorders, particularly hospitalizations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb062012

Online Dating: Is the Stigma Gone?

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Romance and dating has gone digital; It's the second most-popular way of connecting, surpassed only by meeting people through friends.  But, researchers caution, Internet dating is not scientific, and singles should not waste their time on websites that charge for their services.

A review of 400 psychology studies and public interest surveys was commissioned by the Association for Psychological Science and will be published in the February edition of its journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

"Online dating has entered the mainstream, and it is fast shedding any lingering social stigma," said researchers from the University of Rochester, Northwestern, Texas A&M, UCLA and Illinois State.

Dating sites don't have "published, peer-reviewed papers" to explain their methodology, and they do not explain in sufficient detail how people are matched, said the researchers.

"There is no particular reason for people to use sites that charge a lot of money to offer something they cannot deliver," said co-author Harry Reis, a nationally known relationship expert and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

However, he said online dating does provide wider opportunities to meet people.

"The Internet holds great promise for helping adults form healthy and supportive romantic partnerships, and those relationships are one of the best predictors of emotional and physical health," he said.

When dating online, it's fine to rule out those who have unsuitable habits, such as smoking, or belong to a different religion, but beyond that, making a check list, "leaves out the magic another person can bring to you," said Reiss.

"We suggest they try not to have the shopping mentality and not view alternative people the same way they do a pair of pants," he said.

Instead of checking off the different qualities to look for in a mate, imagine talking to the person or going on a vacation with them, he said.

And don't look at more than a "handful" of profiles in a given city. "With 250 profiles to go through in 20 minutes, you can't have a check list," said Reiss.

As for what makes a good match, "You can't quantify it," Reiss said.  "You can define it, but we do not know how it occurs and where it comes from. ... Science isn't there yet."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul112011

Porn Addicts Find Treatment Online

Comstock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Porn is a powerful draw, for some an overpowering attraction. It has also always been a big money maker, and now, a British-based company, HeLPAddictions.org, has launched a for-pay porn addiction hot line.

The 24-hour counseling website was launched as a way to treat porn addicts through an anonymous, Internet-based self-help regimen program. The site's creators hope it will contribute to the recovery of millions of porn addicts around the cybersphere, and some experts say it could act as a good model for porn addiction counseling in the U.S.

"It's obvious to us that Internet-based addiction has become increasingly prevalent over the years," said Faye Blackwell, one of the site's three resident counseling experts. "This addiction carries extra baggage. People are embarrassed and guilt-ridden, and there aren't many places that they can go to talk about it."

Since the site launched eight weeks ago, Blackwell said there have been an "enormous amount of people" who have inquired about the site. In the past week, she estimated that 200 to 300 people have shown interest in joining the program.

Blackwell and colleagues wanted to make the program easy and accessible. After logging on to the site and paying the program fee, members receive a 5-step therapy packet, along with downloadable audio files and access to a secure online forum community. More expensive program packages include "accountability software," which allows therapists to monitor the members' porn use, and telephone counseling sessions with one of the site's addiction counselors. Treatment packages range from $145 to $565 depending on the services purchased.

Terry Gatewood, an addiction specialist at the Sexual Recovery Institute, said that the online site covers several important steps a porn addict must face, including education about the addiction and necessary changes and ultimate ways of moving past the disease.

"There is a grieving process that comes with overcoming addiction," said Gatewood. "It's going to be painful and depressing. It's like a best friend who has been holding the deepest secrets, and now they have to get through life without that best friend."

Porn addiction is much like any other addiction; here, X-rated material is used as a means to escape the stresses of daily life. While experts say there is no definitive moment that indicates an addiction to pornography, excessive use that interferes with daily life and relationships is often sign of an addiction. And, just like drugs, if a person needs more and more to get the desired high, this can also be a sign of a growing addiction.

The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health estimates that 3 to 5 percent of the U.S. population suffers from some sort of sexual compulsion disorder.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio