Pro-anorexics and recovering anorexics differ in their linguistic Internet self-presentation

Elizabeth J. Lyons, Matthias R. Mehl, James W. Pennebaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Objective: Pro-anorexia has emerged as a new and emotionally charged eating disorder phenomenon. This study explored the linguistic markers of differences in Internet self-presentation of self-identified pro-anorexics who defend anorexia as a lifestyle and self-identified anorexics in recovery. Method: One hundred sixty-two Internet message board entries and 56 homepages originating from either pro-anorexics or recovering anorexics were analyzed for linguistic markers of emotional, cognitive, and social functioning, temporal focus, and anorexia-related psychological concerns. Results: Across both text sources, pro-anorexics displayed more positive emotions, less anxiety, a lower degree of cognitive reflection, and lower levels of self-directed attention than did recovering anorexics. Pro-anorexics were also more focused on the present and less on the past. Finally, pro-anorexics were more preoccupied with eating and less with school-related issues and death. Conclusion: Linguistically, pro-anorexics and recovering anorexics engage in distinct psychological self-presentation styles. More research is needed to understand the clinical implications of these different linguistic styles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-256
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Anorexia
  • Coping
  • LIWC
  • Language use
  • Text analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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