Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
Int J Eat Disord. 2006 Nov;39(7):556-64.

The meaning of self-starvation: qualitative study of patients' perception of anorexia nervosa.

Author information

  • 1Division of Mental Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway. ragnfrid.nordbo@fhi.no



Anorexia nervosa (AN) patients tend to place a positive value on their symptoms. Many clinicians believe that this plays a central role in maintaining the disorder. However, empirical research on how patients attribute meaning to their symptoms is lacking. This study aims at systematically exploring the meaning that the patients with AN attribute to their anorectic behavior.


A qualitative, descriptive, phenomenological design was used. Eighteen women aged 20-34 with AN (DSM-IV) were interviewed with an informant-centered interview. The interviews were tape-recorded, verbatim transcribed, coded, and analyzed phenomenologically, using a QSR-N*Vivo software program.


The psychological meanings that the informants attributed to their anorectic behavior could be summarized in eight constructs: "Security" (feeling of stability and security), "Avoidance" (avoiding negative emotions), "Mental strength" (inner sense of mastery), "Self-confidence" (feeling acknowledged and worthy of compliments); "Identity" (achieving new identity), "Care" (eliciting care from others), "Communication" (communicating difficulties), and "Death" (wishing to starve oneself to death).


The eight constructs may have central functions in the maintenance of AN and should be regarded when patients' motivation and goals for treatment are assessed. Further study of the possible functions of the constructs in maintaining AN is warranted.

(c) 2006 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk