OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to compare the degree of stigma associated with anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and depression.
METHOD: 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.
RESULTS: 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.
DISCUSSION: 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.