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Recovery from anorexia nervosa : "becoming the real me" Lamoureux, Mary Mei Ha

Abstract

Over 100,000 females in Canada are estimated to be affected with anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is a serious and persistent mental health disorder that has the highest mortality risk of any other psychiatric illness. Research into recovery from anorexia nervosa has been limited to the medical aspects of the illness with minimal attention to the actual process of recovery. The purpose of this study was to capture the patient's perspective of recovery from anorexia nervosa and to generate a theory that explains the recovery process. This grounded theory study generated a contextually-grounded description of the main theme of recovery from anorexia nervosa, Becoming the Real Me. Through the use of purposive and theoretical sampling, data was collected from nine women in open-ended interviews that were audio-taped. Analysis of these data revealed a five-stage process of recovery that did not occur in a linear step-by-step progression. Rather, the women moved in a back and forth struggle across the stages that required "a lot of hard work" and were often involved in more than one stage at any one time. Recovery, for these women, required becoming the real me, which was characterized by a complex, five-stage process: (1) Catching glimpses of light: Seeing the dangers; (2) Inching out of darkness: Encountering support and learning to trust; (3) Tolerating exposure: Taking control; (4) Gaining perspective in new light: Changing the mind set; and (5) Shedding light on self: Discovering self as "good enough." The theory generated in this study contributes to an understanding of recovery from anorexia nervosa from the women's perspectives. The theory provides a framework for understanding the unique experiences of women recovering from anorexia nervosa and direction for professionals and family members who are involved in supporting women's recovery from this illness. This theory provides a basis for continued research to more fully develop our understanding of the process of recovery from anorexia nervosa.

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