11/19/2013 10:25 am ET

Anorexia Is Contagious, And I Wanted to Catch It


When I was 13, I decided I would become anorexic. By devoting myself to the illness, I believed I could morph from an emotionally confused adolescent into the anorexic girls I had seen on "Oprah" who were, by contrast, models of self-regulation. I read everything I could find about eating disorders — from Steven Levenkron’s fictional The Best Little Girl in the World, in which the anorexic character is unflappably disciplined, to the best-selling memoir Wasted by Marya Hornbacher, whose 202-calorie-a-day diet plan is routinely emulated. Armed with my acquired knowledge, I eventually succeeded, and over the next eight years of my life, I was hospitalized four times.

My journey into anorexia is becoming less atypical as the disease itself has changed enormously over the past decade. Today, no teenage girl needs to be told what anorexia is — it’s the constant subject of memoirs, young-adult novels, Lifetime movies and episodes of "Dr. Phil." Stories about Mary-Kate Olsen, Demi Moore or the latest celebrity to be admitted to rehab for anorexia are a regular tabloid feature. But the explosion of awareness has become a double-edged sword. The number of people hospitalized for eating disorders has risen 24%, from 2000 to 2009, about the same length of time that Eating Disorders Awareness Week has been a mainstay on high school and college campuses since 2001. The pro-anorexia, or “pro-ana,” movement also emerged in 2001, leading to a profusion of websites to help ambitious anorexics.

Read more: Kelsey Osgood: Anorexia Is Contagious, and I Wanted to Catch It | TIME.com http://ideas.time.com/2013/11/15/anorexia-is-contagious-and-i-wanted-to-catch-it/#ixzz2l6OrToDk

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