The role of hurtful and healing messages on eating disorder symptomology and recovery

Victoria Orrego Dunleavy, Ekaterina Malova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study analyzed how clinically diagnosed women with eating disorders described the hurtful messages from parents, siblings, and peers that triggered eating disorder symptomology as well as the healing messages that assisted with coping and recovery. Three themes overlapping across all groups were revealed for hurtful messages: 1) critical, 2) social modeling, and 3) direct comparison. Our findings show that fathers, siblings, and peers similarly used teasing. Other points of distinction were uncovered for fathers: aggressive messages and denial of eating disorder. Competition with female siblings and friends was also a triggering factor for young females with eating disorders. Four distinct categories of healing messages were identified: 1) emotional, 2) instrumental, 3) informational, and 4) appraisal. Point of distinction for friends’ and siblings’ healing messages was absence of negative comments about weight and appearance. Results were able to encapsulate both helpful/supportive and hurtful/unsupportive messages, and these findings will be helpful for treatment centers who may incorporate them in recovery programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-66
Number of pages9
JournalQualitative Research Reports in Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Eating Disorders
  • Family Communication
  • Hurtful Messages
  • Peer Communication
  • Social Support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of hurtful and healing messages on eating disorder symptomology and recovery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this