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Keywords:

  • anorexia nervosa;
  • psychological characteristics;
  • nursing;
  • therapeutic relationship

This paper reviews research on the psychological characteristics of patients suffering from anorexia nervosa and that examining the therapeutic relationship. The former research suggests that anorexic patients possess a psychological profile characterized by: a phobia of weight gain and fear of loss of control; alexithymia and lack of introceptive awareness; mistrust of self and others; cognitive dysfunction; low self-esteem; and often the presence of starvation-induced depression. The latter strongly suggests that in order for a relationship to be therapeutic it needs to be characterized by: empathy; positive regard and acceptance; warmth; commitment; trust; genuineness; and be non-judgemental. The implications of these research findings regarding the nurse's role in forming a therapeutic relationship with anorexic patients is then discussed. It is seen that it is vital that nurses receive adequate education before working with such patients, and that their knowledge is regularly updated. Nurses should receive regular clinical supervision and support, in order to ensure that they are able to provide therapeutic care for such patients.