Educational experiences of young women with anorexia nervosa in an inpatient eating disorder setting

  • Lois Mello Thorpe

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Background and objectives: Eating disorders including anorexia nervosa most commonly develop during adolescence, when a significant amount of time is spent in education. For some individuals, treatment for anorexia involves inpatient care which means being taken out of mainstream school. Inpatient services for adolescents with anorexia provide onsite schools to allow young people to continue their education. Despite this, no known research has explored experiences of education for young people with anorexia in an inpatient setting. The overarching purpose of this study was to explore the educational experiences of young women with anorexia nervosa in an inpatient setting. Method and analysis: Two young women with a diagnosis of anorexia who were receiving inpatient care were recruited from a hospital and took part in a semi-structured interview. The interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Findings: The analysis identified six main themes: responding to academic pressure; the crucial role of peer relationships; features of the school environment; inpatient vs mainstream; physical and mental consequences of anorexia and their role as barriers to education; feeling disconnected from the outside world and managing the future: support and mental health awareness. Conclusions: The findings suggest that educational requirements can not only contribute to the development of anorexia, but also continue to be a central part of adolescents’ experiences during inpatient care. Education within the inpatient setting was found to be challenging at times and this was due to a number of barriers the young women faced which were specifically related to their eating disorders and the inpatient setting. Being an inpatient meant being disconnected from their mainstream education establishments which had a negative impact on development. Important aspects of education involved academic achievement, pressure, the school environment, peers and the role of support. There were significant differences in these aspects of education between the inpatient and mainstream settings. The importance of mental health awareness in school was also highlighted by participants which was crucial in supporting their awaited transition back to mainstream education.
Date of Award31 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlison Alborz (Supervisor) & Terry Hanley (Supervisor)

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