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Community recognition and beliefs about anorexia nervosa and its treatment

Authors

  • Anita M. Darby BHlthSc,

    1. School of Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia
    2. Nutrition and Dietetics Department, Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick, Australia
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  • Phillipa J. Hay MD, PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia
    2. School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Campbelltown, Australia
    • School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South DC NSW 1797, Australia
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  • Jonathan M. Mond PhD, MPH,

    1. School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, University of Western Sydney, Campbelltown, Australia
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  • Frances Quirk PhD

    1. School of Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia
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  • There were no conflicts of interest from the authors in producing this work.

Abstract

Objective:

Mental Health Literacy (MHL), namely recognition, and beliefs about treatment concerning Anorexia Nervosa (AN) were examined in a community sample of male and female (n = 983) aged 15–94 years.

Method:

A vignette describing a women suffering from the symptoms of AN was presented, followed by a respondent-based structured interview concerning recognition of the problem and treatment beliefs.

Results:

The majority of participants could identify the problem as that of an eating disorder, although only 16.1% could specifically identify it as AN. Many also believed the problem was primarily one of low self-esteem (32.5%). General practitioners and psychiatrists or psychologists were considered the most helpful treatment providers, while obtaining information about the problem and available services, followed by family therapy, were considered the most helpful treatments. Less than one-third of participants believed complete recovery was possible. Better AN MHL was found in younger, higher educated, and metropolitan domiciled females.

Discussion:

This study offers encouraging results in regard to AN MHL. In particular, there was moderate regard for the use of mental health specialists in the treatment of the disorder. However, there appears to be a misconception that AN is largely the manifestation of low self-esteem and confusion concerning the distinction between AN and bulimia nervosa. AN MHL was poorer in males and those with higher social and health disadvantage. © 2010 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012)

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