BACKGROUND: Although social-emotional difficulties are believed play a key role in anorexia nervosa (AN), there is uncertainty regarding what these difficulties might look like. Previous research has largely focused on a "disease model" of social-emotional processing in AN with little attention paid to positive emotions and experiences. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to obtain a fuller picture of critical life events as identified by those with lived AN experience.

METHODS: Thirty-four participants aged 16-48 with current or past AN completed an online survey describing self-defined positive and difficult critical events. Thematic analysis was used to assess patterns in participants narrative responses.

RESULTS: Two major themes were identified in the descriptions of positive critical events: Moments of celebration and Unexpected positive outcomes. These major themes revealed increased external focus and some corrective experiences that challenged the participants pre-existing expectations leading to new positive outcomes. Difficult events clustered into life events that were identified as Eating disorder (ED) related and Non-ED related and included the dimensions of relational conflict and feeling unsupported.

DISCUSSION: The findings suggest that although negative emotionality was identified in the accounts of those with lived experience of AN capacity for "big-picture" thinking with and explicit focus on others was also identified. Moreover, an openness to corrective experiences that worked to challenge negative expectations was evident for some participants. Together these findings have scope as targets for further clinical research and treatment interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number53
Pages (from-to)53
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2021


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