A Comparison of Stigma Toward Eating Disorders Versus Depression

Department of Psychology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, USA.
International Journal of Eating Disorders (Impact Factor: 3.13). 11/2010; 43(7):671-4. DOI: 10.1002/eat.20760
Source: PubMed


The goal of this study was to compare the degree of stigma associated with anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and depression.
Participants read one of three vignettes describing clinical cases of AN, BN, or depression, and answered questions assessing stigma toward individuals with one of these three mental disorders.
Attitudes toward individuals with eating disorders were significantly more stigmatizing than attitudes toward individuals with depression. Individuals with an eating disorder were rated as more fragile, more responsible for their disorder, and more likely to use their disorder to gain attention than individuals with depression. Furthermore, the majority of participants reported that they admired certain aspects of eating disorders, thought that there might be some benefits to having an eating disorder, and that others would be motivated to imitate eating disorder behavior.
Stigma toward individuals with eating disorders is greater than stigma toward depression and includes unique features such as attitudes of envy. Implications of these results for the understanding of mental disorder stigma and eating disorders are discussed.

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    • "Stigmatizing attitudes regarding individuals with BN are widespread and include beliefs that BN is not serious and that individuals with BN cannot be trusted and ideally would be kept at a social distance (McLean et al., 2014; Mond & Arrighi, 2011). The most widely held stigmatizing attitude is that people with BN are personally responsible for their disorder (Ebneter & Latner, 2013; McLean et al., 2014; Roehrig & McLean, 2010; Wingfield, Kelly, Serdar, Shivy, & Mazzeo, 2011). This attitude is reflected in beliefs that individuals with BN should stop obsessing about their appearance, work on their self-control, and ''get over it'' and that BN is a form of attention seeking (McLean et al., 2014). "
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    ABSTRACT: Addressing stigma through social marketing campaigns has the potential to enhance currently low rates of treatment seeking and improve the well-being of individuals with the eating disorder bulimia nervosa. This study aimed to evaluate the persuasiveness of health messages designed to reduce stigma and improve mental health literacy about this disorder. A community sample of 1,936 adults (48.2% male, 51.8% female) from Victoria, Australia, provided (a) self-report information on knowledge and stigma about bulimia nervosa and (b) ratings of the persuasiveness of 9 brief health messages on dimensions of convincingness and likelihood of changing attitudes. Messages were rated moderately to very convincing and a little to moderately likely to change attitudes toward bulimia nervosa. The most persuasive messages were those that emphasized that bulimia nervosa is a serious mental illness and is not attributable to personal failings. Higher ratings of convincingness were associated with being female, with having more knowledge about bulimia nervosa, and with lower levels of stigma about bulimia nervosa. Higher ratings for likelihood of changing attitudes were associated with being female and with ratings of the convincingness of the corresponding message. This study provides direction for persuasive content to be included in social marketing campaigns to reduce stigma toward bulimia nervosa.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Journal of Health Communication
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    • "As VA currently does not have systematic screening procedures for EDs, EDs must be severe enough for healthcare professionals to be suspected and detected, or the patient must report symptoms. Stigma may dissuade many people with EDs from reporting them to their healthcare providers (Roehrig and McLean, 2010). In addition, although the VA medical record system prompts healthcare providers to screen for depression, PTSD, and alcohol use at least annually, some patients may choose not to report their symptoms in the primary care setting, due to stigma or concerns about being prescribed medication or other treatments for which they are unprepared (Bell et al., 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Eating disorders (EDs) remain understudied among veterans, possibly due to the perception that primarily male population does not suffer from EDs. However, previous research suggests that male and female veterans do experience EDs. The high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and obesity observed among veterans may make this group vulnerable to disordered eating. Retrospective chart review was used to obtain data from 492 female veterans who were presented to a women׳s primary care center at a large, urban VA medical center between 2007 and 2009. A total of 2.8% of this sample had been diagnosed with an ED. In bivariate analyses, presence of PTSD and depression were significantly associated with having an ED diagnosis. However, when these two disorders were included in a multivariate model controlling for age, only depression diagnosis and lower age were significantly related to ED status. In sum, the rate of EDs in this sample is comparable to prevalence estimates of EDs in the general population. Current findings underscore the importance of assessing for EDs among VA patients and the need for further research among veterans.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Psychiatry Research
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    • "While some of the difficulties experienced by the mothers in this study may be common to mothers of children who cope with other illnesses as well, we believe that coping with one's daughter's ED is uniquely difficult and stressful. First, due to the faulty impression that EDs are self-inflicted conditions (Roehrig & McLean, 2010), there is very little public understanding of or compassion for the family's burden – or for the mother's, in particular – when coping with an ED. Second, the stigmatic perception of EDs as related to the denial of femininity and to poor mother–daughter Psychology & Health 627 relationships (Cooper et al., 2004) turns the focus, and even the blame, towards the mother and her misdeeds as a mother. "
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract The purpose of the current study was to focus on the subjective experience of mothers of daughters with ongoing anorexia nervosa. Specifically, we explored the stressors faced by these mothers while coping with their daughters' illnesses; we also looked at how they experienced their maternal selves and roles, and their perceived competence in coping with their daughters' illnesses. Two related aspects were found to be central in the participants' experiences. One aspect was their network of relationships and how these relationships were challenged or compromised as a result of their daughters' illnesses. This aspect included the mothers' relationships with their daughters, the mothers' relationships with other family members and with their spouses/partners, the mothers' relationships with the professionals treating their daughters, and the mothers' relationships with themselves. The second related aspect was the challenge, presented to the participants' self-perception as "good mothers" by their daughters' illnesses The findings showed that coping with a daughter's eating disorder posed a significant obstacle to the mother's ability to maintain a satisfying relationship with her daughter and her environment, as well as to maintain a positive maternal self-perception. The implications of these findings for professionals working with caregivers are discussed, and a more nuanced, gender-specific attitude is suggested in working with mothers caring for daughters with eating disorders.
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