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Shifting identities: exploring occupational identity for those in recovery from an eating disorder

Esther Dark (University of Derby, Derby, UK)
Sarah Carter (Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Derby, Derby, UK)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 28 November 2019

Issue publication date: 20 January 2020




The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature, transition and formation of occupational identity for those in recovery from eating disorders (EDs).


Semi-structured “episodic” interviews were carried out with six women, self-identifying in recovery from an ED. Narrative-type-analysis produced a distilled narrative of participants’ accounts, before use of thematic analysis compared and extracted pertinent themes.


During recovery from an ED, significant shifts occurred in occupational identities, moving from sole identification with the ED, to a greater understanding of self; facilitated by increased engagement in meaningful occupations, adapting occupational meaning, connecting with self and others and the importance of becoming and belonging.


This is the first known piece of research exploring occupational identity in relation to EDs. The findings are applicable to occupational therapists and add to the growing body of qualitative research into EDs.



Dark, E. and Carter, S. (2020), "Shifting identities: exploring occupational identity for those in recovery from an eating disorder", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 127-139.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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