Skip to main content

Stuffing down feelings: Bereavement, anxiety and emotional detachment in the life stories of people with eating disorders

Abstract

This study aimed to explore the life stories of people with eating disorders (EDs) in order to better understand possible contributing factors to their development. It used a qualitative Life Story method, in order to reduce the tendency to focus on the negative in the lives of people with EDs. Sixteen people in contact with an EDs charity participated. Data were analysed using a thematic analysis. Despite the attempt to elicit both positive and negative information, most themes from the life stories were negative. Here, the focus is on the three most common themes reported, which are less often reported in previous research: (a) substantial bereavement and loss; (b) major issues with anxiety and (c) difficulties coping with emotions. A model is proposed whereby major losses and the resultant anxiety can lead to emotional deadening and ‘stuffing down feelings’ with food, leading on to an ED. This model implies that interventions need to consider psychological factors in an ED, especially the use of it as a dysfunctional coping strategy, as well as the behavioural and physiological aspects of an ED.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2020-05
Journal Health & Social Care in the Community
Print ISSN 0966-0410
Electronic ISSN 1365-2524
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 3
Pages 979-987
APA6 Citation Reid, M., Wilson‐Walsh, R., Cartwright, L., & Hammersley, R. (2020). Stuffing down feelings: Bereavement, anxiety and emotional detachment in the life stories of people with eating disorders. Health and Social Care in the Community, 28(3), 979-987. https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.12930
DOI https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.12930
Keywords Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health; Health Policy; Social Sciences (miscellaneous); Sociology and Political Science
;