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Experience of caring for someone with anorexia nervosa: qualitative study

  • Jenna Whitney (a1), Joanna Murray (a2), Kay Gavan (a3), Gill Todd (a3), Wendy Whitaker (a3) and Janet Treasure (a4)...
Abstract
Background

Caring for someone with anorexia nervosa is distressing.

Aims

To gain a detailed understanding of carers' illness models and caregiving experiences.

Method

Qualitative analysis and computerised text analysis were conducted on narratives written by parents as part of a family intervention at a specialist in-patient unit (20 mothers, 20 fathers)

Results

Themes concerned illness perceptions, impact on the family and carers' emotional, cognitive and behavioural responses towards the illness. Parents perceived anorexia nervosa to be chronic and disabling. Carers blamed themselves as contributing to the illness and perceived themselves as helpless in promoting recovery. Mothers illustrated an intense emotional response, whereas fathers produced a more cognitive and detached account.

Conclusions

Part of the distress in living with anorexia nervosa may be explained by unhelpful assumptions and maladaptive responses to the illness. Training parents in skills to manage the illness may improve outcome by reducing interpersonal maintaining factors.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Jenna Whitney, PO Box 59, Eating Disorders Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 207 188 0169; fax: +44 (0) 207 188 0167; e-mail: j.whitney@iop.kcl.ac.uk
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None. Funding detailed in Acknowledgements.

Footnotes
References
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
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Experience of caring for someone with anorexia nervosa: qualitative study

  • Jenna Whitney (a1), Joanna Murray (a2), Kay Gavan (a3), Gill Todd (a3), Wendy Whitaker (a3) and Janet Treasure (a4)...
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