Purpose: Stigma resistance, described as the capacity to counteract or remain unaffected by the stigma of mental illness, may play a crucial role in the fight against stigma. Little is known, however, about stigma resistance and its correlates in people with eating disorders. This study investigated stigma resistance in people currently diagnosed (n = 325) and recovered (n = 127) from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and EDNOS.
Methods: Participants completed an Internet survey that included the Stigma Resistance subscale of the Internalized Stigma of Mental Illness Scale together with a battery of psychosocial and psychiatric measures.
Results: A minimal-to-low level of stigma resistance was exhibited by 26.5 % of currently diagnosed participants compared to just 5.5 % of recovered participants. Stigma resistance was significantly higher among the recovered than the currently diagnosed (Cohen’s d = 0.25) after controlling for differences in eating disorder and depression symptoms, attitudes about seeking psychological help, self-esteem, years between symptom onset and diagnosis, and years since diagnosis. Greater stigma resistance among the currently diagnosed was associated with less marked eating disorder and depression symptoms, higher self-esteem, more positive attitudes about seeking psychological treatment, and lower internalized stigma.
Conclusions: Stigma resistance is a promising concept that warrants further study. Researchers should consider designing interventions that specifically cultivate stigma resistance in people with eating disorders as a complement to current interventions that target public perceptions of eating disorders. Clinicians may consider incorporating the concept into their practice to help patients rebuff the adverse effects of mental illness stigmatization.
- Stigma resistance
- Internalized stigma
- Eating disorders