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The experience of recovery from an eating disorder : an interpretive phenomenological description Maltby, Georgina Elizabeth

Abstract

Although eating disorders are a significant problem for some women, there is a lack of understanding of what recovery entails and what it means to be recovered. The purpose of this study was to describe the experience of recovery from an eating disorder drawing on the Empirical Phenomenological Psychological method (Karlsson, 1993). Eight women participated in in-depth interviews that explored their recovery experience. The women ranged in age from 28 to 53 years. All of the women had been recovered for a minimum of 5 years (M= 10 years; Range = 5 to 18 years). I conducted a phenomenological interpretive analysis of the transcribed interviews, which produced a description of each participant's recovery experience (i.e., situated structure). Next, I developed the general structure and essential themes of the experience of recovery across all participants, and the commonalities in "being recovered" as revealed in the existentials of body, time, space, and relation (Van Manen, 2000). The findings revealed that there was a common structure to the experience of recovery. Three themes were essential to the recovery experience: (a) knowingness and allowing what is needed to recover; (b) deepening awareness and discovery of oneself; and (c) deepening of being, discovering, and embracing life's possibilities. A l l of the women in this study acknowledged a full recovery, albeit a long, difficult, and lonely experience that required courage, persistence, and determination. The women in this study described an agentic, strategic, and a faith-based approach to recovery that mirrored, resisted, and offered alternatives to the dominant societal and medical discourses of eating disorders and recovery. Future research that explores a multifaceted experience of recovery, and interventions that facilitate self-reflection in order to deepen awareness of the individual's experience and responsibility for change may be helpful.

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