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A life put on hold: adolescents' experiences of having an eating disorder in relation to social contexts outside the family

Authors Lindstedt K, Neander K, Kjellin L, Gustafsson SA

Received 14 March 2018

Accepted for publication 25 May 2018

Published 4 September 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 425—437


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Video abstract presented by Katarina Lindstedt

Views: 160

Katarina Lindstedt, Kerstin Neander, Lars Kjellin, Sanna Aila Gustafsson

University Health Care Research Center, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden

Background: As suffering from an eating disorder often entails restrictions on a person’s everyday life, one can imagine that it is an important aspect of recovery to help young people learn to balance stressful demands and expectations in areas like the school environment and spare-time activities that include different forms of interpersonal relationships.
Purpose: The aim of the present study was to investigate how adolescents with experience from a restrictive eating disorder describe their illness and their time in treatment in relation to social contexts outside the family.
Patients and methods: This qualitative study is based on narratives of 15 adolescents with experience from outpatient treatment for eating disorders with a predominately restrictive symptomatology, recruited in collaboration with four specialized eating-disorder units. Data were explored through inductive thematic analysis.
Results: The adolescents’ descriptions of their illness in relation to their social contexts outside the family follow a clear timeline that includes narratives about when and how the problem arose, time in treatment, and the process that led to recovery. Three main themes were found: 1) the problems emerging in everyday life (outside the family); 2) a life put on hold and 3) creating a new life context.
Conclusion: Young people with eating disorders need to learn how to balance demands and stressful situations in life, and to grasp the confusion that often preceded their illness. How recovery progresses, and how the young people experience their life contexts after recovery, depends largely on the magnitude and quality of peer support and on how school and sports activities affect and are affected by the eating disorder.

Keywords: restrictive eating disorder, patients’ perspectives, qualitative research, thematic analysis, recovery

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