University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1461-1473
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Health Research
Early online date27 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


Websites advocating the benefits of eating disorders (“Pro-Ana”) tend to reinforce and maintain restrictive eating and purging behaviors. Yet remarkably, no study has explored individual accounts of disengagement from these sites and the associated meanings. Using narrative inquiry, this study sought to address this gap. From the interviews of six women, two overarching storylines emerged. The first closely tied disengagement to recovery with varying positions of personal agency claimed: this ranged from enforced and unwelcomed breaks that ignited change, to a personal choice that became viable through the development of alternative social and personal identities. A strong counternarrative to “disengagement as recovery” also emerged. Here, disengagement from Pro-Ana was storied alongside a need to retain an ED lifestyle. With “recovery” being just one reason for withdrawal from Pro-Ana sites, clinicians must remain curious about the meanings individuals ascribe to this act, without assuming it represents a step toward recovery.

ID: 16086874