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OBJECTIVE: This study explored treatment experiences and social support among individuals with eating disorders (EDs) in mainland China. METHOD: Subscribers of a Chinese online social media platform (WeChat) focused on EDs were invited to complete a screening questionnaire that included the Eating Disorder Diagnostic Scale for the DSM-5. Of the 116 questionnaire responses, 31 met inclusion criteria for follow-up interviews. Individuals who never sought treatment were not eligible for follow-up interviews, but provided brief explanations about why they did not seek treatment. All eligible participants (n = 31) completed a semi-structured interview about their experiences with ED treatment and social support. Qualitative data from the interviews and survey responses regarding not seeking treatment were subjected to inductive data-driven thematic analysis with deductive coding to illuminate treatment and social support experiences or reasons for not seeking treatment. RESULTS: Themes emerged from interviews revealed positive inpatient treatment experiences for anorexia nervosa, but negative outpatient treatment experiences, unaffordable care, and ineffective psychopharmacological treatments. Parents, friends, and partners were sources of social support, but participants largely felt misunderstood or blamed by these same entities. Shame, not recognizing ED as an illness, and financial constraints were listed as the primary reasons for not seeking treatment. DISCUSSION: The importance of hearing patients' perspectives, improving ED literacy in China, increasing knowledge of culturally specific manifestations of EDs, and developing culturally responsive services and dissemination of treatment resources are emphasized.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Eat Disord

Publication Date



China, accessibility, anorexia nervosa, barriers, binge eating, bulimia nervosa, eating disorder, mental health, qualitative, treatment