“Should I be Eating Around You?” The Experience of Having a Friend who has been Diagnosed with an Eating Disorder
Boyd-Thorpe, Hayley Louise
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Research has highlighted the negative impact eating disorders can have on those in the diagnosed individual’s social network. However, much of this research had been conducted on carers of diagnosed individuals, many of whom were limited to parents of the individuals. When considering the social network, it seemed important to include friends of diagnosed individuals, particularly as a wealth of research has highlighted the importance of friendships for development. Despite literature suggesting that friendships are negatively impacted by eating disorders, it would appear no research had considered these experiences solely from the perspective of friends of individuals diagnosed with eating disorders. To fill this gap, the aim of this study was to explore the experiences of having a friend who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder. A qualitative design was adopted so that in depth, individual experiences from subjective first-person accounts could be collected using semi-structured interviews. A total of seven participants, all of whom have had a friend who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder, were interviewed. A thematic analysis was conducted on the interview transcripts to identify themes. The results identified five main themes; an evolving understanding of eating disorders, eating experiences, impact on self, helping techniques and external influences on experience. Similarities and differences were found between this study and previous research. New issues were also identified. This research provides evidence for the necessity of providing support to individuals who have a friend who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder. Suggestions for improving the support available are discussed and rationales for future research are provided.
BSc (Hons) Psychology
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