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Understanding the experience of ambivalence in anorexia nervosa: the maintainer's perspective

Williams, Sarah; Reid, Marie


Sarah Williams

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Professor Marie Reid
Professor of Clinical & Health Psychology/ Consultant Clinical Psychologist


People with anorexia often feel ambivalent about whether they wish to maintain it or recover from it. One place where individuals can communicate their experiences of wanting to maintain their anorexia is through pro-anorexia websites. This study investigated the experiences and understandings of those who wish to maintain their anorexia and looked at how these understandings may affect their treatment experiences. Data were collected online and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Anorexia denoted meanings of a 'tool', an 'entity' and a 'disease'. Participants felt ambivalent about whether their anorexia gave them control or controlled them, whether it played a positive or negative role and whether they wished to maintain their behaviours or recover. Participants also discussed barriers to recovery. Theoretical and treatment implications are discussed.


Williams, S., & Reid, M. (2010). Understanding the experience of ambivalence in anorexia nervosa: the maintainer's perspective. Psychology & health, 25(5), 551-567.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 11, 2008
Online Publication Date Jan 23, 2009
Publication Date Jun 1, 2010
Print ISSN 0887-0446
Electronic ISSN 1476-8321
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 5
Pages 551-567
Keywords Anorexia nervosa; Pro-anorexia ambivalence; Online qualitative research; Eating-disorders
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