Williams, S. and Reid, M., 2011. 'It's like there are two people in my head': A phenomenological exploration of anorexia nervosa and its relationship to the self. Psychology and Health. (In Press)
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Official URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0887044...
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.
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