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

Williams, Sarah; Reid, Marie


Sarah Williams

Professor Marie Reid
Professor/ Director of MSc Clinical Applications of Psychology/ Athena Swan lead for Psychology


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.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jun 1, 2010
Print ISSN 0887-0446
Electronic ISSN 1476-8321
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 5
Pages 551-567
APA6 Citation Williams, S., & Reid, M. (2010). Understanding the experience of ambivalence in anorexia nervosa: the maintainer's perspective. Psychology & health, 25(5), (551-567). doi:10.1080/08870440802617629. ISSN 0887-0446
Keywords Anorexia nervosa; Pro-anorexia ambivalence; Online qualitative research; Eating-disorders