Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Suzanne E. Mazzeo

Second Advisor

Kristina B. Hood

Third Advisor

Maghboeba Mosavel


Though it is known that eating disorders (EDs) affect individuals of all racial/ethnic backgrounds (Cheng, Perko, Fuller-Marashi, Gau, & Stice, 2019), people of color tend to be overlooked in the ED literature. South Asian Americans, a specific subset of individuals traditionally categorized within the larger umbrella group of “Asians,” have been notoriously neglected in both the broader mental health literature, and in the ED literature (Inman, Devdas, Spektor, & Pendse, 2014; Iyer & Haslam, 2003, 2006). Currently, very little information exists on the etiology and presentation of EDs amongst South Asian communities. Even less is known about culturally-specific barriers to treatment-seeking for this population. To begin to address these issues, this study used focus group methodology with South Asian American women to identify salient themes. Thematic analysis revealed several key themes for body image and EDs, as well as perceived barriers and facilitators of ED treatment-seeking behavior for this group. Notably, South Asian American women are subjected to multiple appearance ideals, experience unique cultural stressors related to living in the United States, and perceive relatively high expectations and pressures from multiple social domains, including parents and community members. Both generalized and social stigma about mental health, parents’ mental health concerns, lack of knowledge about EDs, and healthcare providers’ biases were important barriers to treatment-seeking. To address these obstacles, participants recommended that clinicians facilitate intergenerational conversations about mental health, create ED psychoeducational health campaigns, and train providers in culturally-sensitive practices for detecting and treating mental health and ED concerns. Findings can inform the assessment, prevention, and treatment of EDs via the development of a culturally-sensitive ED assessment measure designed specifically for South Asian American women.


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