Ana's Friends

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In the rather obscure "pro-ana" online community, girls with anorexia nervosa often gather to share their experiences with the eating disorder. Some choose to embrace it. Others say it chose them. One thing common among most of these girls, however, is their strange embodiment of their mental illness, "Ana".

"When you eat, she starves. When you starve, she eats. Ana is your friend, and she only wants to help you. She is very sick, so she needs a lot of food."

Strangely, these girls often report their friend as constantly belittling them, discouraging them from eating and sending strange messages, constantly reassuring them they only want to help. The way they speak of Ana makes her sound as if she is a real girl, a friend of theirs they trust before anyone else.

So many of these girls seem to religiously follow the word of "Ana" that it seems as if they all truly believe in her, and that her insults are in good faith. Ana eats well because of them, and Ana praises them as their weight sinks lower and lower. A girl who is five-foot-ten and just brushing the underweight line, however, still does not live up to Ana's standards.

At first what seems to most like a crash diet followed by a misguided teenage girl leads to self-mutilation, a complete lack of self-worth and devotion to Ana. Anorexia nervosa will eventually kill one in ten girls who suffer from the disorder—the ones who were Ana's most loyal friends.

The cure was found a month later after reports of suicide.