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Wooldridge, T. (2014). The Enigma of Ana: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Pro-Anorexia Internet Forums. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 13(3):202-216.

(2014). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 13(3):202-216

The Enigma of Ana: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Pro-Anorexia Internet Forums

Tom Wooldridge

In the form of chat rooms, newsgroups, and websites, pro-anorexia has emerged in recent years as a cultural movement in cyberspace that takes an at least partially positive attitude toward anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. The empirical literature has documented both the harm and potential benefit that these forums offer participants. To date, however, pro-ana forums have not been theorized in the psychoanalytic literature. In this article, I make use of both a clinical case and qualitative investigation of pro-ana forums in an attempt to understand how participants make psychological use of them. I argue that pro-ana forums are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they may provide participants with a potential space that fosters further psychological development, allowing participants to play with ideas about relationship, identity, and even recovery. On the other, they may provide the opportunity for psychic retreat in which cyberspace becomes an escape from a reality that has become unbearable.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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