An exploratory qualitative inquiry on the lived experiences of people who engage with pro-eating disorder online media




Mincey, Kimberlee


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The deleterious consequences of eating disorders can lead to an individual’s physical, psychological, emotional, and psychosocial wellness. However, current eating disorder treatment protocols may be overlooking the ramifications of neglecting to include relational counseling treatment into rehabilitation services. Eating disorder treatment may also lack the emphasis of pro-eating disorder online media on the health and wellbeing of the individual who uses this form of social media. This study involved a hermeneutic phenomenological qualitative inquiry intended to explore the lived experiences of people engaging with pro-eating disorder online media. In this study, participants (N = 10) were individuals currently engaged with pro-eating disorder online media and over the age of 18. Analysis revealed a large number of themes and subthemes, including curiosity, spiraling down, increased knowledge, unfulfilled needs (subthemes – (a) acceptance, (b) belonging, (c) connection, (d) control, and (e) understanding), support, safety (subtheme – (a) harm reduction), community (subthemes – (a) genuine relationships, (b) loneliness, and (c) relatability), duality, lack of understanding from professionals (subtheme – (a) misconceptions and perceived judgment), Harmful Aspects (subthemes – (a) risk of predators, and (b) triggering content), motivation for eating disorders (subthemes – (a) competitive aspects, (b) never sick enough, (c) intentional harmful behavior, and (d) tips and tricks), recovery (subthemes – (a) hope related to recovery, and (b) struggles with recovery). The findings of this study provided context for the meaning(s), and purpose(s) individuals perceive and experience when engaging in pro-eating disorder media. The findings also indicated the need for developing appropriate treatment strategies for individuals with eating disorders who access and use pro-eating disorder media. In the following chapters, I discussed each theme and subtheme and the relationship between my findings and the current literature. In the fifth chapter, I provided a thoughtful discussion of the implications for the counseling profession and recommendations for future research.





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