Objective: The relative stigmatization of various eating disorders (ED) remains understudied, and there is no research examining stigma toward avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) or adult picky eating. The present study examined the relative stigmatization of various EDs and the subthreshold eating behaviors that are risk factors for their development, and the relation of gender differences to stigma. Method: A sample of 1147 college students was recruited and completed the study online. Participants were randomized and presented with a vignette representing a clinical ED [anorexia nervosa (AN), binge-eating disorder (BED), ARFID] or a subthreshold eating presentation (restrained eating, emotional eating, picky eating). Participants completed measures of stigma and perceived psychopathology. A 6 (target eating behavior) × 2 (target gender) × 2 (participant gender) MANOVA and subsequent ANOVAs were employed. Results: Measures of stigma revealed significant main effects for eating presentation and participant gender. There were also significant interactions between eating presentation and participant gender. Men reported more stigmatizing views toward BED and AN compared to women. Overall, restraint was stigmatized less than the other targets, and AN received the greatest amount of stigma. Participants rated BED and AN as more pathological than all other targets, emotional eating and ARFID as more pathological than picky eating and restrained eating, and restrained eating as less pathological than all other targets. Conclusions: Future research should explore how the severity of eating behavior influences perceptions and at what level behaviors such as restriction are recognized as disordered.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health