Anorexia nervosa: treatment expectations – a qualitative study
Gunilla Paulson-Karlsson,1 Lauri Nevonen2
1Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro University, Örebro and Anorexia-Bulimia Unit, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Centre, Queen Silvia Children's Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden; 2Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden
Background: Anorexia nervosa is a serious illness with a high mortality rate, a poor outcome, and no empirically supported treatment of choice for adults. Patients with anorexia nervosa strive for thinness in order to obtain self-control and are ambivalent toward change and toward treatment. In order to achieve a greater understanding of patients' own understanding of their situation, the aim of this study was to examine the expectations of potential anorexic patients seeking treatment at a specialized eating-disorder unit.
Methods: A qualitative study design was used. It comprised 15 women between 18 and 25 years of age waiting to be assessed before treatment. The initial question was, "What do you expect, now that you are on the waiting list for a specialized eating-disorder unit?" A content analysis was used, and the text was coded, categorized according to its content, and further interpreted into a theme.
Results: From the results emerged three main categories of what participants expected: "treatment content," "treatment professionals," and "treatment focus." The overall theme, "receiving adequate therapy in a collaborative therapeutic relationship and recovering," described how the participants perceived that their expectations could be fulfilled.
Discussion: Patients' expectations concerning distorted thoughts, eating behaviors, a normal, healthy life, and meeting with a professional with knowledge and experience of eating disorders should be discussed before treatment starts. In the process of the therapeutic relationship, it is essential to continually address patients' motivations, in order to understand their personal motives behind what drives their expectations and their desire to recover.
Keywords: anorexia nervosa, expectations, treatment, qualitative research
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