Stigma and Eating and Weight Disorders

Abstract

Although research has consistently documented the prevalence and negative health implications of weight stigma, little is known about the stigma associated with eating disorders. Given that weight stigma is a risk factor associated with disordered eating, it is important to address stigma across the spectrum of eating and weight disorders. The aim of this review is to systematically review studies in the past 3 years evaluating stigma in the context of obesity and eating disorders (including binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and anorexia nervosa). Physical and psychological health consequences of stigma for individuals with obesity and eating disorders are discussed. Recent studies on weight stigma substantiate the unique influence of stigma on psychological maladjustment, eating pathology, and physiological stress. Furthermore, research documents negative stereotypes and social rejection of individuals with eating disorder subtypes, while attributions to personal responsibility promote blame and further stigmatization of these individuals. Future research should examine the association of stigma related to eating disorders and physical and emotional health correlates, as well as its role in health-care utilization and treatment outcomes. Additional longitudinal studies assessing how weight stigma influences emotional health and eating disorders can help identify adaptive coping strategies and improve clinical care of individuals with obesity and eating disorders.

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge support for this research from the Rudd Foundation.

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Conflict of Interest

Rebecca Puhl and Young Suh declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Rebecca Puhl.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Eating Disorders

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Puhl, R., Suh, Y. Stigma and Eating and Weight Disorders. Curr Psychiatry Rep 17, 10 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-015-0552-6

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Keywords

  • Eating disorders
  • Obesity
  • Stigma
  • Physical health
  • Psychological health
  • Treatment