Myths and Misconceptions: The Lived Experiences of Women with Eating Disorders in Contemporary Society

Author: Amy Wright

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 3 Apr 2026.

Wright, Amy, 2024 Myths and Misconceptions: The Lived Experiences of Women with Eating Disorders in Contemporary Society, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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The purpose of this study is to represent the lived experience of women who currently have, or have previously experienced, an eating disorder using qualitative life history methodology. It is evident throughout the extant research literature that clinical features of eating disorders receive a large amount of attention. However, interpretivist research that focuses on socio-cultural variables and their impact on women receive less attention and remains an understudied aspect of the field. This study proposes to understand and give voice to lived experiences of women affected by eating disorders, the meaning they ascribe to their condition, their struggles and interactions with their environment and society, and the impact these factors have on their illness. Using life history methodology, six adult women with experiences of having an eating disorder were interviewed. Participants involved in the research represent diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds within the context of their lives in Western society. Qualitative research methods provide immense potential to inform public health promotion policy and practice as well as carers of individuals and the general population of the realities for individuals who have an eating disorder. This will not only enable greater understanding to reduce stigma, misinformation and misconceptions associated with eating disorders, but will also assist in the development of public health policy and practice in the field. The background research literature seeks to explore the interplay between contemporary Western society and the presence and maintenance of eating disorders from a sociological stance, by way of exploring women’s experiences of eating disorders in society. The methodology seeks to use the voices of lived experience as authorities and key informants for the betterment of societal awareness of eating disorders. The intention of including the voices of women with lived experience is in the hope that future representations of eating disorders will include authentic and relatable accounts, that may assist in changing enigmatic and unrelatable portrayals of the condition. Concurrently, I will also be writing an autoethnographic account of my own lived experience with an eating disorder. Sharing my own experience as a woman with anorexia nervosa is with the intention of portraying the role that Western society has played in the development and maintenance of my illness. It will also highlight the difficulties of having a condition that is, from my own experience, greatly misunderstood by large portions of society. Finally, it will provide a lens through which myself, and the community of women with eating disorders, perceive, feel, communicate and derive meaning from our experiences. Using an autoethnographic approach alongside life history case studies aspires to enrich the data collection process by contributing personal insight when analysing the data collected through other women’s experiences.

Keywords: Eating disorders, lived experience, qualitative research, eating disorder myths

Subject: Sociology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2024
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Professor Murray Drummond