It’s not all about control: Challenging mainstream framing of eating disorders

Dawn Branley-Bell*, Catherine V. Talbot, James Downs , Carolina Figueras, Jessica Green, Beth McGilley, Claire Murphy-Morgan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


The concept of control has long been suggested as a central factor in eating disorder (ED) aetiology. The concept is now so mainstream that it risks being used in a potentially reductionist, stigmatising or otherwise harmful manner. In this paper, we explore and discuss our positions on the use of control-related terminology for EDs.

The authors of this auto-ethnographic position paper include academic researchers, individuals with lived experience and clinicians (not mutually exclusive). In sharing our experiences and observations, we aim to raise awareness of the wider impacts that control framing can have on ED perceptions, treatment, recovery and individuals’ lived experience.

We argue that although control can play a role in some ED experiences, an overemphasis upon this factor to the exclusion of other conceptualisations is not beneficial.

To mitigate against pathologisation of an individual, it is important to challenge a discourse that can lead to EDs being perceived as something ‘wrong’ with the individual, rather than a consequence of life events or other environmental influences. We identify priorities for the future for researchers, clinicians, policy makers and the wider public.
Original languageEnglish
Article number25
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2023


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