Care must be taken in promoting information about eating disorders in order to ensure positive outcomes, rather than accidental harm.
Research indicates that without due caution, highlighting the symptoms or effects of eating disorders may increase the prevalence of the disorder. The challenge is similar to that faced by health promotion and prevention campaigns for other health issues, such as illicit drug use and binge drinking.
It is recommended that key messages are tailored and tested for audiences, especially when those messages are specifically targeted at those at risk of developing an eating disorder. There is a potential for harm in talking about eating disorders in a detailed way to people at risk.
All communication about eating disorders should contribute to one or more of these three behavioural goals:
- Recognition – Broad community awareness and understanding of eating disorders as a priority mainstream health issue to increase support and reduce stigma
- Resilience – Ability to resist pressures of high risk behaviours for eating disorders
- Help seeking – Early-stage identification of eating disorders and risk factors, leading to early intervention and reduction in the impact of the illness