Untreated recovery from eating disorders

Purpose – The purpose of the research reported by Woods (2004) was to examine the experiences of persons who had eating disorders, specifically bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa, but who were able to attain recovery without professional treatment. Research Question – The research questions for the current research were not explicitly stated. However they can be deduced based on the direction of the presentation and analysis of data. One of the main questions that the current researchers wanted to answer was who are the persons involved in initiating and helping to sustain the recovery of former bulimic and anorexic victims.

The researchers also wanted to determine the factors that led to the development of the eating disorder as well as the decision to change. Finally the researchers wanted to discover what the psychological and physical recovery outcomes were for these individual. Data gathering questions – The data collection instrument used for the current research was a qualitative questionnaire. In addition to demographic details on sex, gender, race, age and type of eating disorder there were eight questions for participants to respond to.

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Respondents were asked to state when their eating disorder symptoms began or emerged, how they started, the factors that led to the development of the behavior and the type of behavior engaged in. For this fourth question the respondents were asked to describe all the behaviors that they participated in. The fifth question asked if there was a key turning point in the initiation of their recovery and sixth if they saw or consulted with a physician, dietician or therapist.

Where the answer to question number six was positive the respondents were asked to state who they consulted, the frequency of the consultation and the length of treatment. Question seven asked if any physical or psychological aspects of the disorder still persist and eight what they find most helpful in keeping them from their former behaviors. Subjects – Twenty two individuals responded to the survey but only 18 fit the criteria for inclusion in the study, that is, they had to have recovered from their eating disorder without accessing profession treatment.

Of this number 89 percent (n=16) were females and 11 percent (n=2) were males. There was only one respondent who was black, a female, the others were white. Respondents were aged between 18 and 21 years. Fifty percent of participants had practiced the purging type of bulimia, 39 percent the restricting type anorexia and the remaining 11 percent purging/binge eating type anorexia. Also they were all full-time students of the university that was the site for the study. Sampling Procedures – Selection of participants for the study was very randomly done.

All students of the university were invited to participate in the study. Advertisements placed on notice boards across the campus explaining the purpose of the study, the nature of the data to be collected, the inclusion criteria and details on how to participate in the survey. There was no further sampling from this population because only a small number of instruments were completed. Only four of the 22 instruments returned did not qualify to be included in data analysis as the respondents had accessed professional treatment before recovery.

Design – The research was a retrospective, exploratory study. Researchers explored the former experiences of participants in recovering from eating disorders. Data Collection Methodology – Participants were invited to contact the researchers via email. Advertisements placed on notice boards across the campus provided the contact details of the researchers. Once respondents contacted the researchers via email they were mailed the instrument containing the eight open questions along with demographic information. Respondents were asked to return the completed questionnaires via email to the researchers.

The completed instruments were collected over a three month period from all who chose to be involved in the email survey. Data Analysis Methodology – Means and percentages were used to analyze the quantitative demographic details contained on the questionnaire. The qualitative details were analyzed and sorted through collectively to decipher common themes and connection between the individual responses. Findings – The major findings of the research were that participants developed eating disorders as a result of comments on their appearance by relatives, coaches, peers and self-comparison to others.

The encouragement of fathers, mothers, boyfriends were the major factors that influenced the decision to change. Other respondents reported experiencing health problems and thus had to change their eating behavior in order to improve. Gastrointestinal problems, dental damage and risk for osteoporosis were the major physical repercussions after recovery. Psychological outcomes that persist are the urge to restart the behavior, feelings of anxiety, identity crisis and mental adjustment to wearing larger clothes are the more common.

Conclusion – Woods (2004) concludes that recovery from eating disorders is possible without any considerable clinical treatment, once symptoms are detected early. A parent or a significant other is important support during recovery. Strengths & Weaknesses – One strength of the research is its design. It gathered data using a qualitative approach, thus ensuring that the true experiences of the respondents are recorded. Another strength is that the questions were open-ended, not guiding the respondents deliberate towards any particular sets of responses.

Respondents were able to provide their own responses. This approach gives validity to the results gathered collectively from among all subjects. This further ensured that a true picture of the actual experiences of the eating disorder victims was obtained. One weakness is that responses are based on self reports and the researchers have no way of verifying the accuracy of the reports. Persons stated they had been bulimic, for example, but there is no clinical data to support this, persons could have self-diagnosed and this could have been inaccurate.

Another weakness is the small sample size. Only 22 persons, from an entire university population chose to respond to the survey. This gives the impression that the recruitment processes were either ineffective or that the population at the university did not meet the inclusion criteria. An alternate strategy would have been to recruit persons with and without eating disorders and compare their experiences to see if factors in their separate home environments predicted the development of an eating disorder. More respondents would have been recruited via this method.

Critique – The research was quite informative and useful in helping to understanding the true nature of eating disorders and the recovery process involved. The findings of the research are particularly useful to those involved in dealing with patients with eating disorders, in helping them design effective treatment and to more accurately target those who are most in need. Since research has revealed that much eating disorders are not immediately noticeable this research emphasizes the important of early detection. In the current research early detection played a key role in determine the successful outcomes of patients.

Furthermore these findings come as good news to parents and peers who may suspect that a child or friend has an eating disorder. These individuals play an integral part in detecting the problem and encouraging a change in behavior. However they also play a negative role of influencing the formation of the behavior. These groups of individuals should therefore take careful note of the findings and do their part to decrease the incidents of eating disorders by being more supportive of their friends and family members that are at risk and in helping to guide those who are victims to effective recovery.