Beliefs of adolescent girls concerning the severity and prevalence of bulimia nervosa


  • Accepted under the previous Editorial Board

School of Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia


The beliefs of adolescent girls concerning an eating disorder problem were investigated. A vignette describing a fictional 16-year-old girl meeting diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa (BN) was presented to 522 high school students, followed by a series of questions concerning the severity and prevalence of the problem described. Most respondents believed that BN is a serious problem whose sufferers are deserving of sympathy. However, BN was perceived to be common among adolescent girls, far more common than estimates from epidemiological research would suggest, and many participants had at some stage thought that it “might not be too bad” to have such a problem. In addition, participants with a high level of eating disorder symptoms considered the prevalence of BN to be higher, and its symptoms more acceptable, than asymptomatic participants. These findings suggest that the perception of bulimic behaviours as normative and/or desirable may need to be addressed in prevention programs.