Skip to main content

'It's like there are two people in my head': a phenomenological exploration of anorexia nervosa and its relationship to the self

Williams, Sarah; Reid, Marie

Authors

Sarah Williams

Professor Marie Reid M.Reid@hull.ac.uk
Professor/ Director of MSc Clinical Applications of Psychology/ Athena Swan lead for Psychology



Abstract

This study explores the lived experience of anorexia nervosa from the perspective of those who use pro-recovery websites for eating disorders. Fourteen people participated in an online focus group or an e-interview. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Participants described their disorder as a functional tool for avoiding and coping with negative emotions, changing their identity and obtaining control. A central theme was the experience of an ‘anorexic voice' with both demonic and friendly qualities. This voice felt like an external entity that criticised individuals and sometimes dominated their sense of self, particularly as anorexia nervosa got worse. Applying dialogical theory suggests a new model of anorexia nervosa, where the anorexic voice is a self-critical position, which disagrees with and attempts to dominate the more rational self. It is suggested that to move on from anorexia nervosa, the individual needs to address his/her anorexic voice and develop a new dominant position that accepts and values his/her sense of self.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2012
Print ISSN 0887-0446
Electronic ISSN 1476-8321
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 7
Pages 798-815
APA6 Citation Williams, S., & Reid, M. (2012). 'It's like there are two people in my head': a phenomenological exploration of anorexia nervosa and its relationship to the self. Psychology & health, 27(7), (798-815). doi:10.1080/08870446.2011.595488. ISSN 0887-0446
DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2011.595488
Keywords Anorexia nervosa; Dialogical theory; Functional role; Anorexic voice; Online research
Publisher URL https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08870446.2011.595488
;