One in three young women finds eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia as desirable ways to lose weight, states study.
Rachel Gold, of La Trobe University, indicated that "negative or stigmatising" attitudes towards eating disorders might be stopping some sufferers from seeking treatment.
"Across the age spectrum there are some mistaken beliefs that there are positive aspects to eating disorders - that it's socially acceptable, that what they are doing is admirable or desirable, that they might be strong-willed or that the symptoms are acceptable," the Age quoted her as saying.
According to the Victorian Centre of Excellence in Eating Disorders, one in 20 Australian women admits to having suffered from an eating disorder, while 25 per cent know someone who has an eating disorder.
Gold said despite public awareness of eating disorders, some people quoted in the studies she reviewed, which were conducted in Australia over the past three decades, characterised sufferers as "overly vain" and "attention-seeking".
"Having those kinds of negative or stigmatising attitudes towards people with those disorders means they are less likely to take someone presenting with those symptoms of an eating disorder as seriously, and it means they are less likely to get help, to get appropriate treatment and recover," she noted.
Gold said the proliferation of websites and blogs carrying tips on how to live a "semi-rexic" or "part-time bulimic" lifestyle was a big concern.
She presented her research at the Australian Psychological Society Conference in Perth late last month.