The impact of stigma on the detection, treatment, and management of eating disorders in Ireland

McNicholas, F., McNamara, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-3123-3678, O’Hara, L. and O’Connor, C., 2015. The impact of stigma on the detection, treatment, and management of eating disorders in Ireland. UNSPECIFIED.

1796590_McNamara.pdf - Published version

Download (1MB) | Preview


Eating disorders (EDs) pose a considerable threat to the health and well-being of children and adults in Ireland. However, there is strong evidence that ED services are underutilised and that many young people struggling with disordered eating are not receiving appropriate professional support (Fursland & Watson, 2014). To reduce ED morbidity and mortality, there is an urgent need to identify the barriers that prevent people from engaging with ED services and develop appropriately targeted interventions. The stigma associated with mental illness in general, and EDs in particular, has been posited as a key barrier to effective help-seeking. However, our knowledge of the magnitude of this problem and how to de-stigmatise EDs through health promotion activities and professional education is limited. In Ireland, there are no available data illuminating how people experience living with or receiving treatment for an ED. Nor do we have reliable data on public and professional attitudes to EDs, and how these might influence an individual’s willingness and ability to seek out effective support and treatment. There is an urgent need to address these gaps in knowledge, to facilitate the development of evidence-based strategies to increase self-presentation at primary care.

The over-arching aims of this mixed-methods research project were to (i) generate knowledge in relation to service provision, engagement and outcome for individuals with EDs in Ireland: (ii) assess the quality of health professionals’ knowledge of ED treatment and diagnosis; and (iii) explore social attitudes to EDs and discern the extent to which stigma acts as a barrier to service provision and use. These objectives guided the development of three original studies: a multi-perspective qualitative analysis of the experiences of young people with EDs, their parents and health professionals; a nationwide survey of health professionals involved in primary and secondary care; and a nationwide survey of secondary school students. The results offer valuable insight into the quality of ED service provision in Ireland and the social factors that influence people with EDs’ general wellbeing and willingness or ability to secure effective treatment.

Item Type: Research report for external body
Description: Commissioning body: Saint John of God Research Foundation
Creators: McNicholas, F., McNamara, N., O’Hara, L. and O’Connor, C.
Date: 2 March 2015
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 04 Sep 2023 10:13
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2023 10:13

Actions (login required)

Edit View Edit View


Views per month over past year


Downloads per month over past year