Disordered Eating and Body Dissatisfaction in Women with Physical Disabilities: A Mixed Methods Approach
Roosen, Kaley Maureen
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Studies have shown that women with chronic illnesses/physical disabilities experience eating disorder symptoms at higher rates than those without. Limited research has explored the reasons behind disability as a potential risk factor for disordered eating/body dissatisfaction. The present study examined disordered eating and body dissatisfaction in young women with physical disabilities. The research used a mixed methods approach with a quantitative (Study 1) and a qualitative component (Study 2). Study 1 compared disordered eating, body dissatisfaction, and mental health problems in 114 women with physical disabilities with those without any disability. It further examined how reported disability severity related to disordered eating, body dissatisfaction and mental health symptoms. Results demonstrated that women with disabilities were more likely to experience higher anxiety and body dissatisfaction. In addition, poorer health rating was significantly associated with greater disordered eating and mental distress, while greater reported subjective disability was associated with greater body dissatisfaction. Study 2 used the grounded theory method to explore the experience of disordered eating in 11 women with physical disabilities from Study 1 who volunteered to be interviewed. Analyses informed by methodical hermeneutics supported the emergence of the core category: Surviving And Thriving In A World Not Designed For Disability And Difference, which captures the experience women with disabilities shared of coping with feelings and realities of being different. In terms of disordered eating, women experienced their eating as different and coped with their overall experience of being different using food, eating and other body modification strategies. The current research highlights the need for greater awareness and programming specified towards the unique needs of physically disabled women.