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Fiction-reading for good or ill: eating disorders, interpretation and the case for creative bibliotherapy research
  1. Emily T Troscianko
  1. Correspondence to Dr Emily T Troscianko, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; emily.troscianko{at}


Compared with self-help bibliotherapy, little is known about the efficacy of creative bibliotherapy or the mechanisms of its possible efficacy for eating disorders or any other mental health condition. It is clear, however, that fiction is widely used informally as a therapeutic or antitherapeutic tool and that it has considerable potential in both directions, with a possibly significant distinction between the effects of reading fiction about eating disorders (which may—contrary to theoretical predictions—be broadly negative in effect) or one’s preferred genre of other fiction (which may be broadly positive). Research on creative bibliotherapy, especially systematic experimental research, is lacking and requires a medical humanities approach, drawing on knowledge and methods from psychology and cognitive literary studies as well as clinical disciplines to expand our understanding of how the dynamic processes of interpretation mediate between textual structures and characteristics of mental health and illness.

  • literary studies
  • literature and medicine
  • medical humanities
  • mental health care

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  • Contributors ETT designed and implemented the research, analysed the data and wrote the article, as sole author. She received assistance from others as described in the acknowledgements.

  • Funding This research was supported by a Knowledge Exchange Fellowship from The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) awarded to ETT in collaboration with Beat.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Detail has been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.

  • Ethics approval The data gathering was approved by the University of Oxford’s central research ethics committee (CUREC reference MSD-IDREC-C1-2014-219).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.