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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Sunita Channa
  • Colin Palmer
  • Newman Leung
  • Maximillian Birchwood

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Univ Warwick


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, 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 poor help seeking behaviour and 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 phenomological analysis (IPA), 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
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Early online date27 Mar 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Mar 2019


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