Rachael Brooke Goren-Watts, PsyD, is a 2011 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University New England.

Dissertation Committee

  • Martha Straus, PhD (Committee Chair)
  • Susan Hawes, PhD (Committee Member)
  • Barbara Belcher-Timme, Psy.D. (Committee Member)


Eating Disorders, Recovery, Anorexia, Bulimia, Meta-Synthesis

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Eating disorders have reached epidemic levels in the United States and cause immense pain and suffering. Given the high fatality and relapse rates of eating disorders, as well as the numerous medical complications associated with them, it is useful to know more about how individuals view their eating disorder, and the meaning making during the recovery process in order to better understand the experience. Narrative theory, and specifically the metaphors women use to story their experience, enrich our understanding of eating disorders within a social constructionist lens. This qualitative meta-synthesis utilizes hermeneutics and identifies and describes the metaphors that women use to talk about their eating problems. Findings demonstrate that the woman’s relationship to her eating disorder, as revealed by her language and metaphor, shifts during the recovery process. This shift was reflected in the metaphors as they progressed from a positive metaphor while they were struggling, to a negative association during initial stages of recovery, to a more complex and nuanced expression throughout recovery, and finally to gratitude metaphors when identifying as recovered. This research adds more qualitative descriptive information to the sparse facts that are provided by diagnosis alone. The metaphors and metaphorical nature of eating disorders are discussed within the theoretical paradigms to assist in conceptualization, clinical application, future research, and public policy implications.