Young peoples' stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs about anorexia nervosa and muscle dysmorphia




The nature and extent of stigma toward individuals with anorexia nervosa and muscle dysmorphia remains underexplored. This study investigated attitudes and beliefs likely to be conducive to stigmatization of individuals with these conditions.


Male and female undergraduate students (n = 361) read one of four vignettes describing a fictional male or female character with anorexia nervosa or muscle dysmorphia, after which they responded to a series of questions addressing potentially stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs toward each character.


Characters with anorexia nervosa were more stigmatized than characters with muscle dysmorphia, female characters were more stigmatized than male characters, and male participants were more stigmatizing than female participants. A large effect of character diagnosis on masculinity was observed, such that characters with anorexia nervosa were perceived as less masculine than characters with muscle dysmorphia, and this effect was more pronounced among male participants. However, no significant corresponding effects were observed for femininity.


Females with anorexia nervosa may be particularly susceptible to stigmatization, especially by males. Anorexia nervosa and muscle dysmorphia are perceived as “female” and “male” disorders respectively, in line with societal gender role expectations, and this stigmatization is tied more strongly to perceptions of sufferers' masculinity than femininity. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2014; 47:189–195)