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"i'm not a teenager, I'm 22. Why can't i snap out of it?": A qualitative exploration of seeking help for a first-episode eating disorder during emerging adulthood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number46
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Published3 Sep 2020

King's Authors


Background: Eating disorders (EDs) typically have their onset during adolescence or the transition to adulthood. Emerging adulthood (~ 18-25 years) is a developmental phase which conceptually overlaps with adolescence but also has unique characteristics (e.g. increased independence). Emerging adults tend to come to ED services later in illness than adolescents, and emerging adulthood's unique characteristics may contribute to such delays. Objective: This study aimed to explore attitudes towards ED symptoms, and their implications for help-seeking, amongst emerging adults receiving ED treatment through FREED, an early intervention care pathway. Method: Participants were 14 emerging adults (mean age 20.9 years; SD = 2.0), all currently receiving specialist treatment for a first-episode, recent-onset (< 3 years) ED. Semi-structured interviews relating to experiences of help-seeking were conducted, and data were analysed thematically. Results: Symptom egosyntonicity, gradual reappraisal and feelings of exclusion from ED discourse were key attitudinal phases prior to help-seeking, each of which had distinct implications for help-seeking. Conclusions: Emerging adults with first-episode EDs show a distinct set of help-seeking-related challenges and opportunities (e.g. help-seeking for others; help-seeking at transitions; self-sufficiency). This research might be used to inform the development and evaluation of interventions which aim to facilitate help-seeking amongst emerging adults with first-episode recent-onset EDs.

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