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They’re smiling, but their smiles look to me like the smiles of terrified victims, trapped within their illness, frightened and scared. Yess.’ These, it emerged yesterday, are the kind of websites which had been visited regularly by Imogen D’Arcy, a 13-year-old girl from Leeds who hanged herself in despair that she was too ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’.Yet they claim to feel good, as one teen wrote on the website: ‘Yesterday I skipped dinner ... She had become so obsessed with her own body image that she had scoured the internet for information on anorexia and suicide in the weeks before her death.Women who have had anorexia are at risk of developing fractures spontaneously or following minor knocks and bumps.One of the first complications of anorexia nervosa is a loss of periods.However, a typical GP list of 2,000 patients could expect to feature one or two anorexics and 18 patients with bulimia, many of whom (but by no means all) will be adolescent females.The best estimates suggest that about one young woman in a hundred has bulimia nervosa and probably somewhat fewer have anorexia nervosa.Now, some people will argue that the desire for ultra-thinness is nothing new.The fashion industry itself has long been criticised for using very skinny models and the Spanish government has actually legislated against the use of models with a Body Mass Index of under 18 (18.5 to 24.9 is deemed to be healthy), out of fear that making such extremes of thinness fashionable will lead insecure teenagers and young women towards anorexia or bulimia.
Anna had just graduated: she was a pretty, bright 21-year-old, and her life seemed well set up for the future.Can you imagine a website which gave you precise instructions as to how to set about getting cancer: smoke 60 a day, don’t exercise, eat loads of red fatty meat, make a point of ignoring any lumps that you might find in your breasts?It would, I assume, be immediately shut down by the Department of Health. I got to 3pm with only 200 cals, then I was practically forced to eat cake and stuff so as not to cause suspicion. I hate this.’ Another girl offers a tip to curb your need to eat: ‘I love to eat ice.’Yet another posting in the early afternoon, she tells her fellow anorexics: ‘So far, I have had a cup of tea, hoping to keep it that way.’ One more bemoans the arrival of her period: ‘I feel so bloated, water weight has added a devastating 1lb to 3lb.’ And so it goes on.So what is driving our young women towards this suicide wish?It is, in a large part, a desire for perfection and to look like one’s celebrity heroines.