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Keywords:

  • anorexia nervosa;
  • lay perceptions;
  • Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire;
  • illness perception;
  • chronic illness

Abstract

Objective

The current study examined and compared perceptions of illness in individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) and lay men and women.

Method

Participants with AN (n = 95) completed the Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ-R). Lay participants (n = 80) completed a modified IPQ-R to elicit perceptions of AN.

Results

Participants with AN viewed their illness as chronic and highly distressing, with strong negative consequences. They had fairly negative perceptions of illness controllability and curability, which contrasted with the more optimistic beliefs held by lay participants. Both groups implicated emotional and psychological causes.

Discussion

The profile of illness perceptions expressed by the AN sample is associated with poor mental health and functioning and may inform the treatment approach. Lay perceptions of AN differed in the conceptualization of AN as a “slimming disease” amenable to change. This discrepancy may contribute to the stigmatization of AN. © 2004 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.