Self-Recognition of Eating-Disordered Behavior in College Women: Further Evidence of Poor Eating Disorders "Mental Health Literacy"?

Kassandra Gratwick-Sarll, Jonathan Mond*, Phillipa Hay

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    Self-recognition of eating-disordered behavior was examined among female college students (n = 94) with a high level of bulimic-type eating disorder symptoms. A vignette was presented describing a fictional young woman with bulimia nervosa. Participants were asked whether they might currently have a problem such as the one described, while also completing self-report measures of eating disorder symptoms, general psychological distress, and functional impairment. Less than half (47.9%) of participants believed that they currently had a problem with their eating. In both bivariate and multivariable analysis, the variables most strongly associated with self-recognition were overall levels of eating disorder psychopathology, prior treatment for an eating problem, and the use of self-induced vomiting as a means of controlling weight or shape. No other eating disorder behaviors were independently associated with self-recognition. The findings support the hypothesis that young women with eating disorder symptoms may be unlikely, or at least less likely, to recognize a problem with their eating behavior when that behavior does not entail self-induced vomiting. Health promotion and early intervention programs for eating disorders may need to address the perception that, among young women of normal or above-average body weight, only problems with eating that involve self-induced vomiting are pathological.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)310-327
    Number of pages18
    JournalEating Disorders
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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