Experiences of specialist inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa: a qualitative study from adult patients’ perspectives
Background: Response to treatment in anorexia nervosa entails various challenges, including an increased risk of relapse and re-admission in those treated as inpatients. A better understanding of patients’ experiences is paramount to improve treatment acceptability and outcome. This qualitative study aimed to explore the lived experiences of adult female inpatients undergoing a specialist inpatient treatment programme for anorexia nervosa. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 21 female participants (aged 18-41 years) with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, undergoing treatment in a specialist inpatient eating disorder unit. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Results: Qualitative analysis highlighted 5 master themes which underpinned treatment experiences: (1) Shifts in control, (2) Experience of transition, (3) The importance of supportive staff relationships, (4) Sharing with peers and (5) Process of recovery and self-discovery. Conclusions: Overall, findings suggest patients experience a process of change and adjustment during inpatient treatment in relation to their levels of perceived control, attachment to the treatment environment and a sense of self-identity. Treatment experiences appear to be influenced by the development of supportive relationships and the provision of individualised care.