Spyware, adware and other malicious crap clogging up my brain

When I booted up my computer at work this morning, I had some very interesting pop-ups for a "spyware protection program" that didn't stay removed once I shut them down, which led me to believe that the program itself was spyware. So I called the IT helpdesk (which, contrary to popular stereotype, consists of helpful humans that speak English), who sent a guy to take a look at my computer.

Like I thought/feared, I had a few gremlins on my computer. The guy asked me what websites I had been visiting (I do a lot of Googling, for starters), and if I'd downloaded anything recently. I was afraid that he thought I had been trowling around those sites, the kind for grown-ups only, with women with fake boobs and lots of heavy breathing and such. But I hadn't, and I just said I had no idea and he said most people don't. A lot of times, he said, these little trojan viruses just start downloading when you visit normal websites.

While the program was running, he asked me some other questions, like if I'd noticed any other unusual pop-ups (nope), if I'd been directed to websites I hadn't clicked on (nope), or if my computer had been running slower than usual (I didn't think so).

So, after an hour or so, all of the little nasties were off my computer and I was on my way.

Why am I blogging about this? Because it reminds me of ED. Aside from the fact that I am the Metaphor Queen (does this allow me to use the royal "we"?), I think there's more than a shred of truth to this, especially if you think of eating disordered thoughts as little memes.

Most people run across those ED thoughts initially through everyday life: school, sports, magazines, relatives, friends, you name it. Those little virus-y thoughts just sort of download themselves along with the bazillions of other things entering our brains. Some people have super-duper virus protection for ED viruses, and others don't. Sometimes, a person needs several viruses gunking up their brains simultaneously for a problem to develop. For others, just one little spyware program will do.

And the signs aren't always obvious at first. I mean, if a virus causes your computer to run just a bit slower, how is one to notice that? The same with an ED. You might just be more careful about not eating too much fat or sodium or cholesterol. In and of itself, that's not immediately life-threatening, although red flags would be shooting up in my brain. Yet all of this obsessing about food makes your brain run just a bit slower. It takes you more and more time to respond to normal, daily tasks.

Then there are those little pop-ups. In ED-land, those pop-ups tend to contain images of skinny people and/or food, with your daily calorie and exercise totals, and with text telling you such things as "I'm fat! I'm stupid! I'm lazy!" One or two of these means you click on the "X" in the upper right hand corner and go on with your day. But ED pop-ups keep on comin'.

The big difference between real viruses and ED viruses is that you can always reformat your hard drive. You can't do that to your brain. You basically have to leave the operating software* in tact and try and fix your laptop with all of the programs still running. The IT guy didn't do that with my computer, which may explain while my tech problems were fixed within an hour but it's been nine years and my brain is still effed up. ED memes still dominate my thinking, but not quite as much as they used to.

I just need some better anti-virus software.

And if you have any real computer spyware, here is the program I used to get rid of everything: Spybot Search and Destroy. It's more frequently updated than most anti-virus programs, and it's free. The IT guy says he recommends it to everyone. It does, however, take up to an hour to scan your hard drive, and then you have to reboot your computer and do it all again. But it will get everything.

*I'm not saying your brain is just like a computer, because it's not. But I am willing to say that your neurons and such are like computer hardware, while the connections between them are like software.

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Anonymous said...

I really like this analogy. It does feel like an invasion sometimes - when you have a hundred and one reasons to recover, and you genuinely want it, but there are still all these ridiculous irrational thoughts buzzing around your head and giving you hell. I am a science-minded person too, and my ability to hold several mutually exclusive beliefs in relation to food, weight and recovery at the same time frustrates me no end! I love your blog, it's so interesting.

Anonymous said...
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Cammy said...

I like the meme analogy because it shows the multi-faceted nature of EDs. Memes are, by definition, culturally transmitted, not biological, but they can take root and shape organic traits too (such as lactose tolerance). An ED is like an insidious little software program that invades our hardware (the brain). If your hardware was "wired" in a specific way, it's easier for the ED meme to get in and take over. Biology meets culture, bang.
Sorry about your computer, but I'm glad you got it taken care of! There is a TERRIBLE virus going around my campus and I've been super-paranoid about it, glad to hear you got yours fixed so quickly.

Carrie Arnold said...

Right, and the memes can co-exist with innate biology. It's not a one or the other type of thing.

I hope your computer stays safe!

Kim said...

I LOVE the metaphor! And, yes, you can use the "royal we." You are the queen :)

Gaining Back My Life said...

Brilliant post, Cammy.

That's really all I can say :)

Carrie Arnold said...


Aria uses the "royal we" all the time, but she DOES have nine lives. :) Glad to have you back from your trip!

Anonymous said...

Forget Windows and use Linux, then you won't have to worry about any of this this crap, plus your computer will run faster.


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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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