The role of sociocultural perspectives in eating disorder treatment: A study of health professionals

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Abstract

Eating disorders are now often approached as biopsychosocial problems, because they are widely recognised as multifactorial in origin. However, it has been suggested that there is a substantial and unwarranted imbalance within this biopsychosocial framework, with the ‘social’ aspects of the equation relegated to secondary or facilitating factors within treatment contexts. Drawing on data from 12 qualitative interviews with health professionals in a UK region, this article examines the extent to which sociocultural perspectives on eating disorders are valued and explored in eating disorder treatment, with a particular focus on the relationship between eating disorders and gender. As girls/women are widely acknowledged to be disproportionately affected by eating problems, the article draws on feminist perspectives on eating disorders to explore whether the relationships between cultural constructions of femininity and experiences of body/eating distress are actively addressed within treatment. The study reveals high levels of inconsistency in this regard, as while some participants see such issues as central to treatment, others have ‘never really considered’ them before. In addition, the study examines the potential limitations of how such sociocultural issues are conceptualised and addressed, as well as why they might be marginalised in the current climate of evidence-based eating disorder treatment. The article then considers the implications of the findings for thinking about feminist perspectives on eating disorders – and the significance of gender in treatment – at the level of both research and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158–171
Number of pages13
JournalHealth
Volume46
Issue number1
Early online date24 Jun 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

Keywords

  • discourse analysis
  • eating disorders
  • gender and health
  • mental health

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