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The lived experience of an eating disorder among gifted female adolescents : a phenomenological study Bell, Alison J.

Abstract

Although several recognized experts have alluded to eating disorders among gifted adolescents as an important topic, it has not been explored through rigorous research methodology. Descriptive phenomenological methodology was used to provide an in-depth description of the experience, core themes, and meaning of disordered eating among gifted female adolescents (ages 15-18). The research data were gained through in-depth interviews with six participants. A situated structure, based on the predominant themes for each individual participant, and an in-depth description of the core and common themes of all the participants' experiences of their eating disorders, were developed. These core and common themes were organized into themes and sub-themes, each elaborated on and supported through thick description, interview excerpts, and the words of the participants themselves. The phenomenological description o f the themes provided in-depth exploration of areas previously addressed in the relevant literature such as perfectionism, control, and low self-esteem. Themes that address the profound negative affective response, explicit connection of giftedness to psychological distress, identity issues, emotional restriction, awareness of multifaceted underlying factors, a de-emphasis on weight and thinness, and a sense of purpose and meaning in the eating disorder experience represent original research contributions that extend the current state of knowledge. The previously unexplored themes, and rich description of the lived experience of an eating disorder among gifted adolescents significantly contribute to clinical practice and psychoeducation in both the gifted and eating disorder fields. This study benefits clinicians, parents, researchers, and those who experience eating disorders by offering knowledge of the experience only gained through the perspective of those who struggle with it personally.

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