Sort of contagious. You see, there are a lot of symptomatic behaviors that are subject to imitation. Drug abuse, cutting, suicidal behavior and eating disorders are just a few examples. When like minded people get together, they inspire imitative behavior in each other. It is unlikely that they are sharing the behavior in each other’s presence, but they are seruptitiously comparing notes. Therapists are very much aware of this potential for contagion. They do what they can to minimize the chance it will happen. If you know of such imitation going on in a therapy experience, be sure you let the therapist know immediately. Thanks to the heads up and link from The Corpus Callosum. Here is a excerpt from his blog. There is also a link to the study abstract.
According to a study published in the medical journal, Pediatrics, girls and young women who visit eating disorder oriented websites may be harmed by the activity. The funny thing is, is does not matter if the sites encourage eating disorder behavior, or discourage it. Persons who visit such sites are more likely to end up in the hospital for treatment of their disorder, and are more likely to have along duration of active illness. Furthermore, they are likely to spend less time on schoolwork. Although it is not possible to say that the use of such sites exacerbated the disorders, persons who do access the sites report that they learn new techniques for dieting and attempted weight loss. Some of these techniques are pathological.