Patients With Anorexia Nervosa Who Self-Injure: A Phenomenological Study

Authors

  • Suzanne Verschueren RN, MSc,

    Researcher, Corresponding author
    1. Research Group Mental Health Nursing/Cluster Nursing, Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Amsterdam School of Health Professions, Amsterdam University of Applied Science, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Tamara Berends RN, CNS,

    Researcher
    1. Rintveld Eating Disorders, Altrecht Institute for Mental Health Care, Zeist, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Nienke Kool-Goudzwaard RN, MSc,

    Researcher
    1. Research Group Mental Health Nursing/Cluster Nursing, Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Palier Centre for Intensive Treatment, The Hague, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Erwin van Huigenbosch RN, MSc,

    Researcher
    1. Research Group Mental Health Nursing/Cluster Nursing, Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Claudia Gamel RN, PhD,

    Researcher
    1. Department of Nursing Science, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Alexandra Dingemans PhD,

    Senior Researcher
    1. Centre for Eating Disorders Ursula, Leidschendam, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Annemarie van Elburg MD, PhD,

    Psychiatrist
    1. Rintveld Eating Disorders, Altrecht Institute for Mental Health Care, Zeist, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Berno van Meijel RN, PhD

    Associate Professor of Mental Health Nursing
    1. Research Group Mental Health Nursing/Cluster Nursing, Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Parnassia Psychiatric Institute, The Hague, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author

  • Conflict of Interest Statement

    The authors report no actual or potential conflicts of interest.

Abstract

Purpose

This study investigates self-injury from the perspective of patients with anorexia nervosa.

Design and Methods

A phenomenological design was used. Twelve patients participated. Data were collected using a semi-structured interview guide.

Findings

Participants display self-injurious behavior predominantly in situations when they are forced to eat. They are terrified of gaining weight and use self-injurious behavior to cope with their anxiety. Self-injury is envisioned as a technique to regain control of their own eating pattern without bothering anyone. They feel shame for not controlling their emotions more constructively.

Practice Implications

Healthcare professionals should systematically observe signals and explore less harmful strategies that help to regulate overwhelming feelings.

Ancillary