Overlaps and disjunctures: a cultural case study of a British Indian young woman's experiences of bulimia nervosa

Sunita Channa, Anna Lavis, Charlotte Connor, Colin Palmer, Newman Leung, Maximillian Birchwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
229 Downloads (Pure)


Eating disorder diagnoses are characterised by a pattern of disordered eating behaviour alongside symptoms such as body dissatisfaction and preoccupation with food, weight or shape (APA in Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, DSM-5, APA, Washington, DC, 2013). Incidence rates for eating disorders have increased during the last 50 years. However, epidemiological studies have suggested that such trends may not be a true representation of the occurrence of these illnesses in the general population, with figures underestimated due to reduced help seeking and poor access to care, particularly amongst ethnic minorities. This case study explores the experiences of a young British Indian woman with bulimia nervosa. Arising from an in-depth semi-structured interview, analysed with interpretative phenomenological analysis, her narrative offers a critical lens onto how diverse fragments of cultural practices and meanings come together to produce the clinical category of ‘bulimia.’ It thereby offers an alternative portrait of relationships between eating disorders and ‘culture,’ one that goes beyond a framing of these illnesses as culture inscribed on the body. Interrogating relationships between culture and the development, expression and maintenance of bulimia is suggested to be key to forging culturally-sensitive understandings of this illness; this paper begins to provide the evidence base for the design and development of appropriate support services, thereby aiming to contribute to a reduction in health inequalities and barriers to treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-386
Number of pages26
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date27 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Eating Disorders
  • Culture
  • South Asian
  • Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis


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