Qualitative study of the impact on recovery of peer relationships between female inpatients during treatment for anorexia nervosa in the United Kingdom

Elizabeth Lotery*, Rebecca Bell, Gillian Combe, Helen E Bould, Lucy A Biddle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Objective
Admissions to hospitals for people with anorexia nervosa (AN) often last over 2 months, during which significant time is often spent with other patients, but there is little qualitative research on the impact on recovery of the inter-patient relationships. Our aim was to conduct qualitative interviews with people with a history of inpatient treatment for AN, focusing on the impact of interactions and relationships between patients during hospital admission on recovery, including short-term and long-term effects.

Method
We conducted nine semi-structured, one-to-one interviews, specifically exploring the helpful and unhelpful aspects of inter-patient relationships during inpatient treatment for AN. No type of relationship was either included or excluded. Participants were recruited as volunteers in response to an online advertisement; all who met the eligibility criteria were selected. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results
Thematic analysis identified five themes: (1) comparison and justification, (2) learnt unhelpful behaviors, (3) dealing with distress, (4) compassion, and (5) role-modeling. All participants expressed conflicting feelings about their relationships with other patients, but generally described developing more resilience to negative effects as they got closer to recovery. Positive effects, such as compassion, appeared to hold significance long term in participants' recovered lives.

Discussion
The detailed exploration of themes in this study provides a deeper understanding of inter-patient relationships during inpatient treatment for AN. This could aid clinical decision-making when choosing appropriate treatment settings for individual patients as well as informing clinical practice in hospital.

Public Significance
This study closely examines the effect on recovery of relationships with other patients during hospital treatment for AN, a severe eating disorder. Findings might help hospital staff to understand the feelings of those they look after and develop ways to protect patients from the negative effects of peer relationships and enhance the positive ones, to support recovery in hospital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-362
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Volume57
Issue number2
Early online date7 Dec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. International Journal of Eating Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.

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