'It's always about the eating disorder': finding the person through recovery-oriented practice for bulimia

Kate Churruca, Jane M. Ussher, Janette Perz, Frances Rapport

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Bulimia is an eating disorder characterised primarily by binging and ‘inappropriate’ compensatory behaviours, such as purging or excessive exercise. Many individuals with bulimia experience chronic disordered eating, dissatisfaction with treatment, and difficulty establishing a ‘new life’. Recovery-oriented practice, which focuses holistically on the person and their own aspirations for treatment, has recently been advocated in the treatment of eating disorders in Australia and other countries. However, questions have been raised about how this practice might be integrated into existing treatment approaches. Taking a social constructionist approach and using a case study of one woman’s account, together with literature on patients’ treatment experiences, we examined recovery from bulimia. Three themes were identified: bulimia was constructed as ‘consuming one’s life’, an experience protracted through treatment (‘treatment and becoming the eating disorder’), which makes life ‘beyond treatment and attempting to live without bulimia’ challenging. Based on this analysis, we argue that recovery-oriented practice, while seemingly commensurate with patients’ needs, may be challenged by long-standing meanings of mental illness and experience of bulimia specifically.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-303
Number of pages18
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date10 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Bulimia
  • Eating disorders
  • Recovery
  • Social constructionism
  • Treatment


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