Mental health literacy and eating disorders

What do women with bulimic eating disorders think and know about bulimia nervosa and its treatment?

Jonathan M. Mond, Phillipa Hay, Bryan Rodgers, Cathy Owen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims: Attitudes and beliefs concerning the eating disorder bulimia nervosa (BN) were examined in a community sample of women (n = 158) with BN-type eating disorders. Method: A vignette was presented describing a fictional person meeting diagnostic criteria for BN. Participants gave their opinions on a range of issues concerning the nature and treatment of the problem described. Results: Most participants believed that BN would be difficult to treat and that relapse would be likely, were initial treatment successful. Primary care practitioners, psychologists, counsellors and close friends were perceived as helpful in the treatment of BN by the vast majority of participants. Lifestyle changes, including taking vitamins and minerals, were also highly regarded, whereas participants were ambivalent about the benefits of psychiatrists and antipathetic towards the use of prescription medication. Most participants believed that BN is common among women in the community and many had occasionally or often thought that it "might not be too bad" to have such a problem. Low self-esteem was considered the most likely cause of BN. Conclusions: Beliefs and attitudes likely to be conducive to low or inappropriate treatment seeking exist among women with BN-type eating disorders in the community. Poor "mental health literacy" therefore needs to be addressed in early intervention programs for these disorders. Health professionals need to be aware of patients' belief systems and their potential effects on treatment-seeking and adherence to treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-575
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Mental Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Eating disorders
  • Mental health literacy

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