Purification, Punishment, and Control: Eating Disorders, Self-Harm, and Child Sexual Abuse

Lisa Hodge, Amy Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Eating disorders continue to be viewed as curable diseases, forcing people into predetermined narratives of pathology that shape how they are viewed and treated. Situated in a feminist application of Bakhtin’s sociological linguistics, we were concerned with how participants understood eating disorders, the nature of their experiences, and the causes of their distress. Following a dialogical method, multiple in-depth interviews were conducted with seven women who experienced an eating disorder and who had been sexually abused previously, and participants’ own drawings and poetry were obtained to gain deeper insights into meanings and emotions. We found an eating disorder offered a perception of cleanliness and renewal that was attractive to participants who experienced overwhelming shame. It is critical that researchers use a range of visual and sensory methods to move eating disorder understandings and treatment beyond illness and pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1963-1975
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes


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