Finding a "fit" between narratives : a framework for meeting the needs of people struggling with non-clinical disordered eating

Shariff, Zahra (2020) Finding a "fit" between narratives : a framework for meeting the needs of people struggling with non-clinical disordered eating. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Disordered eating is becoming increasingly prevalent among the general population and patterns are said to have substantial emotional, physical and psychosocial problems. This study examined emotional processes and helping relationships among people with experiences of disordered eating. Disordered eating as a way of regulating negative emotional states (e.g. Ganley, 1989), resulting from a misinterpretation of hunger signals (e.g. Bruch, 1973), or disinhibited and restrained eating during negative emotions (e.g. Herman & Polivy, 1984) are mechanisms highlighted and cited within the eating disorder literature. Qualitative studies focus on phenomenological and interpretative perspectives (e.g. Fox & Power, 2009; Cooper et al., 2004), and research among a nonclinical sample often selects participants on the basis of weight categories or diagnoses which are developed and implemented by researchers and clinicians (e.g. Hernandez-Hons & Woolley, 2012). However, there is an absence of theory of sufferers’ experiences and dated examination of processes involved in help-seeking behaviours that also considers the social, cultural and economic factors influencing the problems in the person’s life (e.g. Anderson, 1999; Raisanen & Hunt, 2014). Eight self-selected individuals were interviewed and their narratives were analysed using Charmaz’s (2006, 2011) social constructivist adaptation of Grounded Theory. Finding a ‘fit’ between narratives emerges as a core category, supported by taking the ‘disorder’ out of the ‘eating’ and the consideration of the social context in which problems occur. The Grounded Theory Model also identifies the role of the other in creating the context for having a ‘therapeutic conversation’. Relationships between categories and subcategories are examined and quotations are presented across participants’ narratives. Attention is paid to the researcher’s and participants’ reflexivity in this intersubjective process. The research findings are explored in relation to existing psychological theory and positioned as guidance for those working with people with disordered eating experiences that do not meet diagnostic criteria. The research implications are positioned within the current context of access to psychological therapy and suggest a framework for meeting client needs.

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