Collegiate female athletes' reported experiences of recovering from eating disorders
Arthur, Jessyca Nicole
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At present, there is little esearch on athletes' recovery from eating disorders. The research was designed to fill this void through three studies on recovery in athletes who experienced eating disorders. Study #1 included 49 collegiate female athlete participants with current or former eating disorders. They completed on-line questionnaires to determine persons and factors that helped their attempts at recovery as well as to measure their use of coping mechanisms. Mothers and friends were most frequently cited as helpful as well as hurtful to recovery. Not wanting to lose the ability to compete in sport emerged as the most important factor in assisting recovery. Coping mechanisms were interpreted using Folkman and Lazarus's (1980) transactional model. Results revealed that greater recovery was related to more use of problem-focused coping and emotional-approach coping strategies as well as less use of avoidant-style coping. Study #2 utilized in-depth interviews with 17 collegiate female athletes who had achieved at least three months of recovery from an eating disorder in attempt to better understand the recovery process in athletes. Results revealed a life-cycle of an eating disorder which had ultimately led the participants to recovery. The participants' reports indicated a variety of internal and external factors that helped and hindered the recovery process which were discussed and compared to the non-athlete literature. Study #3 provided advice to coaches, parents, and athletes based on the experiences of 16 collegiate female athletes who had achieved at least a three month period of recovery from an eating disorder. Participants most frequently encouraged coaches to address eating disorder symptoms, provide support, and refer athletes to professional care. Parents were encouraged to provide support, recommend professional treatment, avoid critical comments or judgments, and become more educated about eating disorders. Participants most commonly recommended that athletes with eating disorders keep hope for recovery, determine underlying causes of the disorder, and seek professional treatment. The results from all three studies provided implications for the sport community, which were discussed in detail. Overall, results indicated that the ability to participate in sport is a crucial factor in motivating athletes to recover from eating disorders.
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