• eating disorders;
  • bulimia nervosa;
  • recognition;
  • mental health literacy



Self-recognition of eating-disordered behavior was examined in a community sample of young adult women (n = 158) with bulimic eating disorders.


A vignette was presented describing a fictional person meeting diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa. Participants were asked whether they might currently have a problem such as the one described. Scores on measures of eating disorder psychopathology, functional impairment and general psychological distress were compared between participants who recognized a problem with their eating and those who did not.


Participants who recognized a problem with their eating (n = 86, 51.9%) had higher levels of eating disorder psychopathology and general psychological distress, were more likely to engage in self-induced vomiting, and tended to be heavier, than those who did not (n = 72, 48.1%). In addition, participants who recognized a problem were more likely to have received treatment for an eating or weight problem. In multivariate analysis, the occurrence of self-induced vomiting and higher body weight were the only variables significantly associated with recognition.


Poor recognition of eating-disordered behavior may be conducive to low or inappropriate treatment seeking among individuals with bulimic- type eating disorders. The perception that only disorders involving self-induced vomiting are pathological may need to be addressed in prevention programs. © 2006 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2006; 39:747–753