Creative endeavours in eating disorder research

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The dominant way of understanding and treating eating disorders in women who have been sexually abused as children is problematic. This is because child sexual abuse is understood, in medical terms, as resulting in the development of mental illness (Warner, 2009). It is easier to think about the enduring misery created by child sexual abuse in terms of illness. However, by pathologising women’s abuse experiences distress is privatised. This undermines the ability of women to speak out about social injustices. Similarly, dominant theories that explain the aetiology of eating disorders remain individually focused. A woman with an eating disorder is seen to have character flaws such as being emotionally unbalanced or a perfectionist who desires control (Malson, 1998). Psychiatry has dominated the academic discourse and treatment of women with eating disorders in which ‘woman’ is positioned as other, as deviant, as pathological and inferior (Malson, 1998). With the central focus on diagnostic classification, the medical model maintains a diagnostic grip on how mental distress can be theorised. As Sam Warner suggests ‘treatment is then orientated away from women’s lives (e.g. exploration of what they do to cope) and back towards internalized disorder (e.g. pharmaceutical management of their “disease”)’ (2009, p. 17).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical and Creative Research Methodologies in Social Work
EditorsLia Bryant
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherAshgate Publishing Limited
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781315574905
ISBN (Print)9781472425829
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


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