Ambivalence in pro-anorexia: An online phenomenological approach

This source preferred by Sarah Muir

Authors: Williams, S., Reid, M., McPherson, K. and Peacock, S.

Start date: 30 November 2007

For many individuals anorexia plays a functional and egosyntonic role which can result in reluctance to give it up. However, at the same time sufferers can also have negative attitudes towards anorexia and this can result in feelings of ambivalence. Pro-anorexia is an online movement which give sufferers a forum to discuss their feelings about wishing to maintain the disorder. This presentation reports the results of an online study which aimed to first determine the understandings of anorexia held by those who wish to maintain it and second, to identify how the understandings may affect pathways to and through treatment. Fourteen participants recruited from pro-anorexic websites took part in either an online focus group or an e-mail interview and data was analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Participants were ambivalent about the role anorexia played in their life: whether it was a ‘tool’, an ‘entity’ or a ‘disease’; whether it was positive or negative; and whether it was a method of control or something that controlled them. Participants also felt ambivalent about whether they wanted to recover. Respondents also discussed barriers to recovery which included feelings of fear and negative attitudes and experiences of treatment. Theoretical and treatment implications of the findings will be discussed as will the methodological implications of using an online approach.

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