Experiences of being diagnosed with and treated for anorexia

Posted 01/05/2018


This research is concerned with individuals’ experiences of being diagnosed with and treated for anorexia, the meanings that these events hold for individuals and the ways in which they impact on, and become intertwined with, identity. 

What is the purpose of the research?

The purpose of this research is to explore people’s individual experiences of being diagnosed with and treated for anorexia, and the ways in which these events impact and become intertwined with identity. My interest in this topic partly stems from my own experience of an eating disorder. I was diagnosed with anorexia in 2006 and have been recovered for about seven years. Questions which this research seeks to address include: What circumstances lead to someone being diagnosed with anorexia? What does having a diagnosis and receiving treatment mean to the individual? How do these events affect the individual’s identity and their understanding of anorexia? The research hopes to gain a better understanding of diagnosis, treatment and identity in anorexia from the point of view of the person who has the condition. In the longer term, research which addresses these concerns could help to inform more effective strategies for supporting people with anorexia.

Who can take part?

I am currently seeking individuals who are male (with any level of education), who identify as non-binary (with any level of education), OR who are female with a level of education no higher than college level (Further Education, e.g. A-levels or vocational equivalent).

To participate in this research, the following should also apply to you:

  • Age 18yrs or above and living in the UK.
  • Have been diagnosed with anorexia by a health professional (you may or may not still have this diagnosis).
  • Have received (within the past 8 years), or are currently receiving, treatment for anorexia. ‘Treatment’ includes any regular input from a health professional(s), for example: seeing your GP to be physically monitored, attending an outpatient or inpatient eating disorder service, appointments with a home treatment team, or time spent on a hospital ward.
  • Not be feeling especially unwell or have very serious health complications.

What does the study involve?

If you choose to participate then you will be invited to take part in an interview with me at some time from January 2018 onwards. The interview will likely last between one and two hours, and will cover topics such as your experiences of anorexia, being diagnosed and receiving treatment. However, there will not be a strict set of questions to follow, so we will be free to talk about those aspects of these experiences that are relevant and meaningful to you. In addition to us discussing your experiences, the interview may also include me sharing some reflections on my own experiences of anorexia and treatment, if relevant and appropriate. It may be that you are also invited to take part in a second interview, and you would be free to decide at the time whether or not you would like to do so (there is no obligation). The second interview would be addressing the same topic matters as the first interview, and would simply be an opportunity to go into more detail about these matters.

This research is not linked to any treatment that you may currently be receiving, and so whether you participate will not affect your treatment in any way.

How can you take part?

If you are interested in taking part, please contact me using the details provided and I will provide you with a participant information sheet which includes more information about the research and what taking part would involve. If you are still interested after having read the information sheet, please contact me again and we can begin making arrangements for the interview. There is no obligation to participate at any stage. You will be free to leave the research at any time, without having to give a reason, and without disadvantaging you in any way – even if you have previously agreed to take part. 


Lauren O’Connell (BSc, MSc, PGCE)
PhD researcher in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex.

Email: lauren.oconnell@essex.ac.uk