Eating Disorder Bracelets, Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia Messaging

The Dangerous Bracelets that Could Prevent Your Teen from Getting Help

teenage girl wearing bracelets
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Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia are the names given to a movement that encourages troubled teens to avoid treatment for eating disorders and offers tips on ways to loose weight, purge, control eating, hide weight loss, and more. It has a strong presence on websites and social networking sites but there are additional low tech activities going on that urge teens to rebel and be 'proud' of their eating disordered behaviors.

The Purpose of Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia Bracelets

Advocates of eating disorders openly discuss their problems online and have created an easily recognizable symbol to help identify each other when not online. Their symbol is a bracelet, of a certain color and worn in a specific way.

The bracelets are worn in an effort to unite this community that is encouraging dysfunctional eating patterns. Teens who support the 'lifestyle' of anorexia, known as 'Ana girls,' wear a beaded red bracelet around the left wrist to identify themselves to others, and also reportedly as a reminder not to eat.

Advocates of bulimia, known as 'Mia girls,' wear a blue or purple beaded bracelet around their right wrist to show that they are 'proud bulimics' and to offer encouragement to others. The sites describe the purpose of wearing these bracelets as a way to 'let other individuals know you are pro ana or pro mia in secret.' Teens wearing bracelets are encouraged to make eye contact with others wearing similar ones and point to their own: 'if the look is returned, they are ED (eating disorder) friendly.'

The bracelets are simply made, inexpensive and readily available on the Internet, or can be homemade. The only requirement appears to be that the bracelet be the appropriate color and made from, or include, beads. The stated goal for wearing them is to 'recognize each other so we can help each other.' Unfortunately, the help this community offers is potentially destructive to a teen who is becoming obsessed with food.

What to Do if Your Troubled Teen is Wearing a Pro-Ana or Pro-Mia Bracelet

If you see your teen wearing a bracelet similar to the ones described this may be an indicator she is struggling with an eating disorder. It's essential to talk openly to a teen showing signs of problems with food and to take action to get help before it continues to worse.

Here are suggested ways to deal with a teen wearing a pro-eating disorders bracelet:

  • Let your teen know you are aware of Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia bracelets and gently ask her reasons for wearing it.
  • Express concerns about any other signs of an eating disorder your teen may be exhibiting.
  • Stay as caring and calm as possible in bringing up this subject so your teen is able to hear what you have to say.
  • Do your best to avoid expressing disgust or judgment about your teen's behavior.
  • Get more information about eating disorders to better understand what your teen is dealing with.
  • Help your teen understand that anorexia and bulimia are not life-style 'choices' but a serious disorder that can improve with professional intervention.
  • Seek advice from a professional specializing in treating eating disorders about what to say to your teen.
  • Talk to your teen about ways to get accurate information about the negative consequences of eating disorders.
  • Be aware your teen may deny any involvement with pro-ed or problems with food; denial is common in eating disorders.
  • Ask gently if your teen has any concerns about being gaining weight or ever feels guilty after eating.

Be careful not to immediately conclude that if your daughter is wearing a red or blue bracelet she has an eating disorder or is negatively supporting others who do, but be aware she may be using it as symbol that she is pro-ana or pro-mia. If you are seeing other warning signs including symptoms of depression, strange eating patterns, low self esteem, an extreme focus on food, significant changes in weight or disparaging comments about body shape or size, seek help from a mental health professional or physician to evaluate your teen for a possible eating disorder.

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