A Qualitative Analysis of the Experience of Caring for an Individual with an Eating Disorder

  • Anna Ajulo

Student thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology


The thesis sought to explore the experience of caring for an individual with an eating disorder. It is comprised of three standalone papers. Paper one and two have been prepared for submission to a journal and in accordance with the journal guidelines. Paper one is a systematic literature review synthesising qualitative studies relating to the experience and impact of caring for, or living with an individual with an eating disorder. Databases were systematically searched and twenty studies were included in the review. Nine core themes emerged from the meta-synthesis. Eating disorders were found to have a pervasive impact on family members mediated by a number of factors. Cognitive appraisals affected the caregiving experience and responses to the individual. The experience of caregiving was continually reappraised leading to a process of adaptation over time.Paper two is a qualitative study which sought to examine caregivers' accounts of managing Anorexia Nervosa with an emphasis on accommodation responses. Eight participants were interviewed and transcripts were analysed using a grounded theory approach. A theory of the processes by which accommodation responses operate was developed which emphasised the importance of caregivers' emotional resources in mediating responses. Difficulty managing anorexia nervosa led to low perceived efficacy and diminished resources. Subsequently caregiving aims shifted in line with accommodation responses. Carers recognised accommodation as counterproductive to recovery and experienced internal conflict (dissonance) which was reduced using a number of cognitive and behavioural strategies. The clinical implications of the findings are discussed with reference to existing literature.Paper three is a critical review of the research process, focusing on the experience of undertaking qualitative research. Personal reflections of the process, as well as the implications of the research for the researcher's professional practice and for the wider profession are discussed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJohn Fox (Supervisor)


  • enabling
  • accommodation
  • experience
  • metasynthesis
  • anorexia nervosa
  • eating disorder
  • caring

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