This study, performed by researchers at the University of Hawaii, aimed to discern how people viewed different eating disorders. While all eating disorders can be massively damaging, not all are viewed equally by the general public. This can have a profound impact on the individual suffering from an eating disorder. People with eating disorders are often very aware of public support assisting their struggle or, conversely, ridicule or contempt making the challenge of overcoming their problem much harder.
The survey based study asked several varying questions aimed at separate disorders including bulimia nervosa, depression and binge eating and obesity. The participants of the study were given a description of a nineteen year-old woman suffering from one of the above disorders and were subsequently asked to describe and rate their perception of the imaginary individual.
Answers were varied and surprisingly, showing a significant difference in how each disorder is viewed in terms of sympathy or lack thereof. It may be unsurprising for some to find that obesity was considered to be the fault of the individual in a much more personal sense when compared to depression, which registered amongst the participants of the study as the more “accepted” difficulty. Participants appeared to see depression as a disease as opposed to a deserved outcome created brought on by an individual’s behaviour.
This is an important lesion for researchers and those trying to raise public awareness of mental health issues. While many may hold the opinion that the vast majority of obese men and women (if not all) are personally responsible for their situation and health, the fact remains that the psychology of such individuals is often far more complex. In many cases other illnesses may be linked to obesity, such as depression, either by circumstance or by medication used to treat the mind. The fact that this study indicates little support in terms of obese individuals shows a lack of empathy that can severely hamper the recovery of an individual suffering from such difficulties.