(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