Background: Caregivers of individuals with Eating Disorders (EDs) undergo significant
caregiver burden and stress. Although the literature suggests that caregivers of eating disorders are
significant supports in the client’s recovery and relapse prevention, they receive limited research.
Objective: This study explored the lived experience of caregivers of individuals with eating
Method: Noblit and Hare’s (1998) seven-step meta-ethnographic method was used to identify and
consolidate the main themes across qualitative studies, which then supported the creation of a conceptual
model of the caregiver experience.
Results: Caregivers of individuals with eating disorders undergo a dynamic experience where three
mutually influencing external factors of perceived barriers, healthcare experience and perceived
support influence an internal reaction which then impacts the caregiver’s output behaviors. Within
their output behaviors, caregivers engage in two coexisting continuums of acceptance and coping.
Demonstration of recognition, acknowledgement, personal growth, and hope indicate that caregivers
have reached the final stages of acceptance and coping.
Conclusion: Findings suggest that caregivers experience two simultaneous transformative learning
processes of acceptance and coping. Numerous barriers such as stigma and difficulties accessing the
healthcare system may slow these transformative learning processes. These findings revealed that
both clinicians and social networks can become more effective in supporting ED caregivers.