Unpacking Recovery Part 2: The Multiple Facets of Recovery

One of the most common definitions of eating disorder recovery I have seen comes from a 2010 study by Bardone-Cone et al. Before I begin exploring this study I thought I might direct readers to some more resources on recovery: Carrie Arnold over at ED Bites wrote a few posts about recovery on her blog, and the first in the series can be found here. In this post, Carrie looks at the 3 dimensions of recovery that surface in Bardone-Cone’s article, so I thought I might also explore a study Bardone-Cone et al. published in the same year, which specifically touches on self-concept in eating disorder recovery, for variety’s sake.


One of the most appealing things about Bardone-Cone and colleagues’ definition of recovery is that it looks at more than just the physical aspects of recovery. The researchers conceptualize recovery instead as … Continue reading →

Unpacking Eating Disorder Recovery Part 1: The Recovery Model

What does eating disorder recovery really look like? When you say the word “recovery,” differences of opinion loom large. The lack of definitional clarity around the concept of recovery came up many times at ICED, and continues to surface in discussions among researchers, clinicians, and individuals with eating disorders themselves. We’ve looked at recovery on the blog before (for example, Gina looked at how patients define recovery here; Tetyana surveyed readers about their perspectives on whether or not they thought of themselves as being in recovery and wrote about it here; I wrote about men’s experiences after recovery here). It’s something of a hot topic in the research literature, too.

My Master’s thesis focused primarily on recovery, with one “take home message” being that there can be a disconnect between what recovery means in treatment settings, in popular understanding, and among individuals who have experienced eating disorders. … Continue reading →

I Asked, "Are You In Recovery? Why or Why Not?" Here's What You Answered (And More): Exploring SEDs Readers' Experiences

Are you in recovery right now? Why or why not?” That’s one of the questions I’ve been asking on the SEDs Tumblr every once in a while. It is interesting for me to find out about the people who read the blog/Tumblr. But more importantly, it gives me an opportunity to show diversity of experiences (and feelings).

Last week I decided to formalize this a little bit and to open the floor to non-Tumblr users; I made a survey with over a dozen questions. I received a lot of responses  and I wanted to share them in the hopes that some of you will, perhaps, find them reassuring. I won’t get to cover all the questions I asked, so this will be part I of, well, I don’t know how many posts.

Please note that this survey is not scientific, not comprehensive, and not necessarily representative of the … Continue reading →

Complex Motherhood: The Perspectives of Mothers with Eating Disorders

Studying, as I do, in a department of family relations, I have become interested in family relationships and parenting. Accordingly, I have begun to take note of interesting studies that link family dynamics and parenting with eating disorders, including studies that look at the sibling relationship (as I wrote about here), family-based treatment, and motherhood/fatherhood in the context of eating disorders.

The literature appears to have shifted, lately, from a focus on “eating-disorder generating” families toward an acknowledgement of the complex family dynamics that can play into the development and treatment of eating disorders. A move away from mother- or family-blaming discourses is essential, I would argue, to gaining a better understanding of the lived experience of eating disorders for individuals and families alike.

Accordingly, I was pleased to stumble across an article by Tuval-Mashiach et al. (2013) that used a qualitative approach to explore the experiences … Continue reading →

Life After Recovery for Men with Eating Disorders

While there is growing recognition that (surprise, surprise!) men are not immune to eating disorders, men are still underrepresented in the literature about eating disorders. We know comparatively little about what it is like to be a man with an eating disorder, and less still about recovery and life after recovery for these individuals. Recently, Björk, Wallin, & Pettersen (2012) conducted a qualitative study that asked men who had been diagnosed with an eating disorder and completed treatment to describe how recovery factors into their present lives. The researchers interviewed 15 men aged 19-52 (mean age 23) in Norway and Sweden, 10 of whom had been diagnosed with AN, 4 with BN, and 1 with EDNOS. The authors did not specify duration of illness.


The authors used a phenomenographical approach to study recovery among men. Though I am familiar with qualitative methods, this approach was new to … Continue reading →

Factors Associated with Recovery from Anorexia Nervosa

Why do some people recover anorexia nervosa relatively quickly while others seem to struggle for years or decades? Does it depend on the person’s desire to get better? Their willpower? How much they are willing to fight? Is it just that some try harder than others? Some might say yes, but most will correctly realize that the picture is much, much more complex.

We can spend hours talking about barriers to treatment, but in this post I want to talk about something slightly different, something perhaps that is perhaps less “obvious.”

Suppose a group of girls–all roughly the same age, same illness duration, same socioeconomic background and race–enter the same treatment facility. What determines why some will do well in treatment and continue to do well after discharge, whereas others will relapse immediately after discharge, and yet others won’t respond to treatment at all? We know that catching eating … Continue reading →

Personality Traits after Recovery from Eating Disorders: Do Anorexia and Bulimia Patients Differ?

When we think about eating disorders, we tend to think about eating disorder subtypes: anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder. A lot of previous work has shown that individuals with AN and BN tend to be anxious, depressed, perfectionistic, and harm-avoidant. Patients with AN also tend to score low on novelty-seeking, impulsivity, and self-directedness, whereas patients with BN score high on novelty-seeking and impulsivity. More recently, however, some researchers began to wonder if there was another way to categorize patients–not according to symptoms, but according to personality traits?

They identified three clusters of personality subtypes that seemed to “cut across” eating disorder diagnoses, outlined below (taken from a previous post):

Three Personality Subtypes in Eating Disorder Patients:

  1. “dysregulated/undercontrolled pattern: characterized by emotional dysregulation and impulsivity”
  2. “constricted/overcontrolled pattern: characterized by emotional inhibition, cognitively sparse representations of self and others, and interpersonal avoidance”
  3. “high-functioning/perfectionist pattern: 
Continue reading →

Maintaining Change Following Intensive Eating Disorder Treatment

It is a relatively well known fact that eating disorders have a high relapse rate and many people, myself included, find themselves in multiple intensive – residential, inpatient, even partial hospitalization – treatments. One may ask if such intensive treatments really work or if long term intensive care is just a band-aid of sorts. I know I’ve had to ask myself, “why is this going to work this time when it hasn’t worked in the long run before.”

There is even debate in the field on whether residential treatment actually has evidence supporting its effectiveness (see Tetyana’s post here). I can speak from experience that the various intensive treatments I’ve personally done have saved my life and given me more perspective, skills training, and support than I could have had otherwise. However, despite having made significant changes, I’ve had more than my share of slips and relapses.

I … Continue reading →

How Do Anorexia Nervosa Patients Define Recovery and Engage in Treatment? The Need for Individualized Treatment

One difficulty in measuring rates of recovery for patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) is coming up with a cohesive definition of “recovery” that most of us can agree on. Similarly, it is hard to identify whether a particular treatment course is working when the patient and the clinician have different goals in mind. A 2010 study by Alison Darcy and colleagues (article is freely available here) – in an attempt to understand the patients’ goals – aims to explore how patients define recovery and engage in treatment. This study differs from a lot of the literature on treatments and recovery in that all the data comes from individuals with a lifetime history of AN. The population sampled includes 20 women with a mean age of just slightly over 29 (range from 19-52). This is a small sample size, which can make it difficult to generalize responses, and the information … Continue reading →