Eating disorders (EDs) are complex, serious conditions that are increasing in prevalence and unfortunately often resist treatment. This results in intense personal suffering, significant mortality and high societal costs. Enhanced approaches to treatment are needed.
EDs profoundly affect the whole person, involving an interweaving of physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioural, sociocultural and/or spiritual aspects. Current best practice treatment is multidisciplinary. However, religious and spiritual factors are largely neglected, despite growing evidence that religion and spirituality (R/S) have a nuanced relationship with EDs, whereby some factors may contribute to ED development and maintenance, and others to recovery. Additionally, limited pastoral care guidance exists to assist faith communities supporting those with EDs. This project aims to contribute a better understanding of R/S aspects in EDs and support their integration into prevention and treatment, representing a worthwhile avenue to enhance ED care.
This will be achieved through a co-design approach, focusing on Christian R/S. Interviews with people with ED lived experience, close personal supports, healthcare providers and pastoral carers will explore the interaction between R/S and EDs and suggestions to improve spiritually integrated care. Participants from each group will then jointly co-design a practical resource to inform such care. This will provide a foundation for future implementation trials.
The project will deliver peer-reviewed articles, conference presentations and the codesigned resource, and foster collaboration between stakeholder groups. It will enable enhanced understanding of the interplay between R/S and mental health and support therapeutic alliance between healthcare and pastoral care providers. Ultimately, it addresses the important need to improve ED prevention and foster recovery, through enabling comprehensive, personalised, spiritually integrated ED care.