Pro-Anorexia Websites Send Convoluted and Deadly Messages, Study Finds

"I've occasionally heard about them. But for the most part patients don't report to me that they access those sites," said Herzog. "And I do see a fair number of eating disorder patients, and I inquire."

Herzog said while he absolutely doesn't endorse the sites, he does think it's useful to study them.

"I do try to understand what draws people to these sites so that we might be able to apply that to other sites that can draw them to healthier places," said Herzog, who is a member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

"If we don't try to understand that we're missing something," he said.

Parents Can Help Teen Daughters at Risk

Since the majority of people with an eating disorder develop it in the teenage years, psychiatrists say parents should be aware of their own influence over their child's behavior online and in the home.

"Monitor kids online. Know where they're going, know who they're talking to and what sites their visiting, and if you have to put limits on computer use, do it," said Leslie Sim, a Mayo Clinic psychologist.

Sim said many children with eating disorders weren't inspired by recovery sites online either. It seemed their desire to get better fluctuated from day to day, meal to meal.

"They really require parents to do anything they can to get these kids to eat and maintain weight," said Sim. "They just need parents to take over."

Kandel said she pays attention to signs that others are looking for a way to further their eating disorder behavior. For example, when someone asks about her "lightest weight," she'll say, "the day I was born" so the person can't use the number as a way to compete in an eating disorder.

"I can understand that people who are struggling, they feel that they are in a community of people who understand," said Kandel. "But what they need to know is that on the pro-recovery side, there will be many people who understand."

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