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How to deal with sociocultural pressures in daily life: reflections of adolescent girls suffering from eating disorders

Authors Aila Gustafsson S, Edlund, Daven, Kjellin, Norring

Published 18 April 2011 Volume 2011:4 Pages 103—110

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JMDH.S17319

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Sanna Aila Gustafsson1, Birgitta Edlund2, Josefine Davén1, Lars Kjellin1, Claes Norring3
1Psychiatric Research Centre, Örebro University, School of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro, Sweden; 2Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, University of Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden; 3Center for Psychiatry Research, Karolinska Institute, and Stockholm Center for Eating Disorders, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Adolescent girls with eating disorders experience unattainable and contradictory expectations in daily life, which create stress and negatively affect their self-evaluation. Disordered eating may function as a way of seeking control and consistency. In order to make progress in the understanding of eating disorders, the aim of this study was to describe how adolescent girls with eating disorders reflect upon ways of dealing with sociocultural pressures in daily life. Eighteen interviews with girls aged 15–19 years were analyzed using a phenomenographic approach. The results were summarized into three conceptions: ‘Striving to be oneself" (conception A) was described as the most desirable, but also the hardest. "Adapting to various situations’ (conception B) was used without much reflection, as long as it worked, but when this way of dealing with everyday expectations was unsuccessful it was evaluated negatively. "Presenting oneself in a positive light" (conception C) was described negatively even when it was successful. Within these conceptions, the participants described various strategies that could be used more or less effectively depending on the circumstances. A common theme was their difficulties in finding a balance between trying harder to live up to perceived expectations from others on one hand, and trying to accept the situation as it was, without trying to change themselves or the situation, on the other hand. The participants believed that their eating disorder was partly a result of being unable to deal with sociocultural pressures in an effective way, and they experienced a conflict between societal values of being assertive and values of being interpersonally oriented. Implications for treatment are discussed.

Keywords: mental health, qualitative, phenomenography

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