Study asks if recovery tales help those with anorexia

April 30, 2014 by Verity Leatherdale

Many mental health organisations, including those treating people with anorexia nervosa, feature testimonials on their websites from survivors and sufferers who describe the road to recovery.

But how helpful are recovery stories to dealing with anorexia? "While anecdotally it is well known that people with anorexia often read memoirs of survival we do not know of any into whether those stories are always helpful. If they are helpful then when and why they are helpful are the next questions we'd like to answer," said Lisa Dawson, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney's School of Psychology.

"While our study is squarely aimed at people with anorexia nervosa it may have implications for the treatment of other issues."

Dawson is currently leading a study into how useful reading a variety of survival accounts is to people with anorexia. The five survival stories come from recent research Dawson did into the crucial stages of recovery for people who survive chronic anorexia, the with the highest mortality rate.

"In the study we identified an interplay of factors which helped people recover. Crucial elements were having an insight into their illness - perceiving their experiences as an illness and recognising the people who also understood the illness and could support them," said Dawson.

"Sadly many people had to hit 'rock bottom' - to be so mentally and physically exhausted by the illness that, perhaps paradoxically, they could find the strength and motivation to confront it. Their stories were inspiring, outlining the difficult journey of recovery but also providing hope."

The stages of recovery people with anorexia progress through may mean that early in the illness survival accounts may be unhelpful or even damaging.

"As odd as it sounds to people unfamiliar with this it can include an element of competition, of wanting to be the 'best' anorexic. This sentiment is reflected in the existence of disturbing pro-anorexia and 'thinspiration' websites which provide encouragement to people with anorexia," said Dawson.

"For those people survival accounts may be irrelevant or an inspiration in the worst sense." June Alexander struggled with anorexia for decades before recovering and her account is one of those being used in this research. "Reading other people's stories of recovery spurred me on the way to freedom. They showed me I was not alone, not mad and that it is possible to recover," said Alexander.

People who have nervosa or an eating disorder similar to can take part in the study which is conducted online. All aspects of the study, including results, are strictly confidential.

Participation involves completing a brief questionnaire online to assess your eligibility for the study. If eligible, the study involves completing questionnaires online on two or three occasions, two weeks apart.

Explore further: New approach to diagnosing anorexia nervosa

Related Stories

New approach to diagnosing anorexia nervosa

January 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A new approach for diagnosing patients with anorexia nervosa has been developed at the University of Sydney. The approach could have a significant impact on the treatment and recovery of sufferers, as ...

Global search for anorexia nervosa genes

March 25, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Flinders University Professor Tracey Wade is collaborating with researchers worldwide in a global effort to identify genes that cause eating disorders.

Anorexia nervosa study finds inner conflicts over the 'real' self that have treatment implications

November 22, 2011
"It feels like there's two of you inside – like there's another half of you, which is my anorexia, and then there's the real K, the real me, the logic part of me, and it's a constant battle between the two." - 36 year ...

Brain size may signal risk of developing an eating disorder

August 22, 2013
New research indicates that teens with anorexia nervosa have bigger brains than teens that do not have the eating disorder. That is according to a study by researchers at the University of Colorado's School of Medicine that ...

'Love hormone' could provide new treatment for anorexia

March 12, 2014
Oxytocin, also known as the 'love hormone', could provide a new treatment for anorexia nervosa, according to new research by a team of British and Korean scientists.

Study shows brain function differences in women with anorexia

September 17, 2012
A new study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience by researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas and UT Southwestern found brain-based differences in how women with and without anorexia perceive ...

Recommended for you

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

Old antibiotic could form new depression treatment

July 19, 2017
An antibiotic used mostly to treat acne has been found to improve the quality of life for people with major depression, in a world-first clinical trial conducted at Deakin University.

New study suggests that reduced insurance coverage for mental health treatment increases costs for the seriously ill

July 19, 2017
Higher out-of-pocket costs for mental health care could have the unintended consequence of increasing the use of acute and involuntary mental health care among those suffering from the most debilitating disorders, a Harvard ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.