Not the Typical Eating Disorder: Moving Beyond Stereotypes of Anorexia Nervosa

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Eating Disorders (EDs) are a classification of biopsychosocial disorders with serious and potentially fatal consequences. Atypical anorexia nervosa (AAN) is a diagnosis used by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (5th ed.) to describe an ED occurring when an individual meets the criteria for anorexia nervosa (AN) while maintaining a weight that is “within or above the normal range,” despite significant weight loss. Researchers have established that AAN is equally as serious from a medical perspective when compared to AN. Despite an increasing number of adolescents presenting to ED treatment facilities with AAN, no research has specifically explored the perspectives of individuals who have experienced AAN during their adolescence. In this study, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to examine how participants made sense of their past experiences of AAN and the meanings that they derived from these experiences. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews which were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. Five superordinate themes were identified: (a) the search for belonging, (b) caregiver influence, (c) not the typical eating disorder, (d) diagnosis: a double-edged sword, and (e) there’s no “one size fits all” approach. Taken together, these findings have important implications for the detection and treatment of AAN, counselling psychology, ED nosology, and future research.
eating disorders, atypical anorexia nervosa, interpretative phenomenological analysis
Vos, S. (2022). Not the typical eating disorder: moving beyond stereotypes of anorexia nervosa (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from