Seeing yourself clearly: self-identification of a body image problem in adolescents with an eating disorder

Scott J. Fatt*, Jonathan Mond, Kay Bussey, Scott Griffiths, Stuart B. Murray, Alexandra Lonergan, Phillipa Hay, Kathleen Pike, Nora Trompeter, Deborah Mitchison

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Aim: Many adolescents who meet diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder do not self-identify as having a problem and may consequently be less likely to seek help. Extant research investigating self-identification has been limited to specific populations (ie, girls meeting criteria for bulimic-type eating disorders). This study investigated how self-identification varied across sex, eating disorder diagnoses, and the presence of extreme eating behaviours, and how self-identification was related to help-seeking in adolescents. Methods: Participants included 1002 Australian school students (75.5% female, Mage = 15.14 years, SD = 1.40) who met DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder. An online survey assessed self-identification of having a body image problem, as well as sex, eating disorder diagnosis, extreme eating behaviours, help-seeking for a body image problem, and other potential correlates of self-identification (demographics, psychological distress, social function, weight and shape concerns). Results: Approximately, 2 in 3 adolescents with an eating disorder self-identified as having a body image problem. Girls who met criteria for a major eating disorder diagnosis, and those engaging in extreme eating behaviours, were more likely to self-identify. When adjusting for covariates, only sex remained significantly associated with self-identification. Adolescents who self-identified were 2.71 times more likely to seek help for a body image problem, adjusting for covariates. Conclusions: Public health strategies ought to promote awareness regarding the different ways that body image problems might manifest among both girls and boys, as well as the potential gravity of such problems. Awareness among parents, teachers and primary care providers should also be considered.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)577-584
    Number of pages8
    JournalEarly Intervention in Psychiatry
    Issue number3
    Early online date19 May 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


    • adolescent
    • body image
    • early intervention
    • feeding and eating disorder
    • identification


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