Conceptualizing eating disorder recovery research: Current perspectives and future research directions

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BioMed Central Ltd
(c) 2022 The Author/s
CC BY 4.0
Background How we research eating disorder (ED) recovery impacts what we know (perceive as fact) about it. Traditionally, research has focused more on the “what” of recovery (e.g., establishing criteria for recovery, reaching consensus definitions) than the “how” of recovery research (e.g., type of methodologies, triangulation of perspectives). In this paper we aim to provide an overview of the ED field’s current perspectives on recovery, discuss how our methodologies shape what is known about recovery, and suggest a broadening of our methodological “toolkits” in order to form a more complete picture of recovery. Body This paper examines commonly used methodologies in research, and explores how incorporating different perspectives can add to our understanding of the recovery process. To do this, we (1) provide an overview of commonly used methodologies (quantitative, qualitative), (2) consider their benefits and limitations, (3) explore newer approaches, including mixed-methods, creative methods (e.g., Photovoice, digital storytelling), and multi-methods (e.g., quantitative, qualitative, creative methods, psycho/physiological, behavioral, laboratory, online observations), and (4) suggest that broadening our methodological “toolkits” could spur more nuanced and specific insights about ED recoveries. We propose a potential future research model that would ideally have a multi-methods design, incorporate different perspectives (e.g., expanding recruitment of diverse participants, including supportive others, in study co-creation), and a longitudinal course (e.g., capturing cognitive and emotional recovery, which often comes after physical). In this way, we hope to move the field towards different, more comprehensive, perspectives on ED recovery. Conclusion Our current perspectives on studying ED recovery leave critical gaps in our knowledge about the process. The traditional research methodologies impact our conceptualization of recovery definitions, and in turn limit our understanding of the phenomenon. We suggest that we expand our range of methodologies, perspectives, and timeframes in research, in order to form a more complete picture of what is possible in recovery; the multiple aspects of an individual’s life that can improve, the greater number of people who can recover than previously believed, and the reaffirmation of hope that, even after decades, individuals can begin, and successfully continue, their ED recovery process.
Eating disorders, Multi-methods research, Qualitative research, Quantitative research, Recovery
Hower H, LaMarre A, Bachner-Melman R, Harrop EN, McGilley B, Kenny TE. (2022). Conceptualizing eating disorder recovery research: Current perspectives and future research directions.. J Eat Disord. 10. 1. (pp. 165-).