Lived experiences of binge eating and access to care in the New Zealand health system : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology (Health Psychology) at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
This research inquiry sought to explore lived experiences of binge eating in New Zealand. Previous narrative research on eating disorders, has focused primarily on populations with Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, and no New Zealand research could be found that provided narrative voices of people that self-identified as binge eaters, or had received a Binge Eating Disorder (BED) diagnosis. The purpose of this research is to provide a step towards filling the narrative gap in current literature, and to improve understandings of binge eating. A secondary focus, was to understand how participants navigated New Zealand primary care pathways. There were two parts to the study. Part one took a narrative inquiry approach, completing semi-structured interviews with eight participants who had self-identified binge eating. Allowing participants to self-identify created a space to discuss a range of experiences outside of BED diagnosis. The research took a Narrative Analysis approach, guided by a Social Constructionist epistemology, and drawing from Feminist, Foucauldian and Stigma Theories. Part two consisted of a quantitative survey sent to General Practitioners in New Zealand, and twelve complete responses were received. Key findings included the importance of protective factors, experiences of stigma, and a lack of adequate treatment pathways. Recommendations included improving education in areas of nutrition, disordered eating and mental health. Protective factors are described that could establish personal frameworks of care for binge eating in future. Stereotypes of eating disorders, alongside DSM-5 criteria (APA, 2013) were perceived as barriers to treatment. The findings suggest that diagnosis and recovery journeys for binge eating are not linear, and that recovery itself is subjective. Participants’ accounts present narratives that move away from ideas of having to reach a place of medical diagnosis and recovery for experiences to be valid. The importance of improving primary care eating disorder pathways in New Zealand is evident through the voices of interview participants and General Practitioners, with participants advocating for improving care structures in New Zealand, with focus on earlier intervention and cultural relevance. This research has provided insight into personal experiences of living with binge eating, and difficulties navigating primary care systems.