Macquarie University
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"It's part of what makes me.": women's constructions of 'anorexia nervosa' in their identity journeys over ten years

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posted on 2022-03-29, 03:50 authored by Janet Elizabeth Conti
This dissertation is interested in women’s voices and some of the ways they negotiate their identities in relation to the discursively constructed category of ‘anorexia nervosa’. Nine women who came to identify their experiences as ‘anorexia nervosa’ were interviewed three times over ten years. This sample of women was drawn from an initial sample of 21 women and therefore the 12 women who did not participate in the interviews ten years later where not included in the substantive analysis. The research interviews sought to provide a context for these women to speak on their own terms; terms not confined to the discursive field of ‘anorexia nervosa’. A critical discursive analysis of the women’s interviews identified some of the ways these women used, and were positioned by, the discursive resources available to them at the time. ‘Anorexia nervosa’ was found to be a troubled socially constructed category. In particular, it positioned the sum of their lives as disordered and dominated by illness. The discourse assumed that the person should regain a pre-morbid state in the form of a recovery. Within the discursive context of talk not confined to ‘anorexia’ talk, the women were active in refashioning alternative positions. Speaking on their own terms and through use of image and metaphor to author a complex social reality, they reconstructed their lived experiences as an identity journey where they connected with what they valued, which had strong implications for their lives as presently lived. The implications of this research are significant given that the majority of research to date confines the terms of speaking to the ‘anorexia’ discourse.


Alternative Title

Women's constructions of 'anorexia nervosa' in their identity journeys over ten years

Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Constructions of 'anorexia nervosa' -- 3. A critical discursive analysis of 'anorexia nervosa' narratives -- 4. Looking in a different way -- 5. 'Anorexia nervosa' or ...? -- 6. Speaking outside 'anorexia' -- 7. Recovery or ...? -- 8. Discussion and conclusions -- Appendices


Submitted as partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy" "May 2013 Bibliography: pages 199-211

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Daphne Hewson

Additional Supervisor 1

David Cairns

Additional Supervisor 2

Catherine McMahon


Copyright Janet Elizabeth Conti 2013. Copyright disclaimer:




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