Eating Disorder and the Experience of Self: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
Nunn, Amanda Louise
Aims: Quantitative research and clinical observations have long supported a link between the eating disorders and disturbances of self / identity. However, less is known about the process of how this comes about, and little qualitative research has been conducted in the area. The current study therefore aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of the experience of self and eating disorder, using a qualitative approach. The study focused upon the experiences of women, in order to keep the sample homogenous, and sought to explore the following: How women with an eating disorder view and describe themselves; their thoughts and experiences concerning why they view themselves this way; and their thoughts and experiences regarding whether they think there is a link between their view of themselves and their eating disorder. Method: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with four women who had been diagnosed with, and were undergoing treatment for, an eating disorder. Verbatim transcripts of the interviews were then analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Results: The analysis produced four master themes. These were, "I'm always questioning, who am I?": 'Experiencing a fragile sense of self'; 'The influences of others on self perception'; „"Just made me feel better about myself": 'Strategies employed to manage the sense of self'; and "I can't rise above my childhood": 'The enduring influence of early experiences on self'. A description of these master themes and the related subordinate themes is presented. Conclusion: The results of the analysis are considered in light of existing theory and their clinical implications.