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“Dual-experiences” of treatment for anorexia nervosa: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of experiences of treatment by service providers who are recovered service users

Emma Elizabeth Curry (Department of Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)
Panoraia Andriopoulou (School of Humanities, Hellenic Open University, Patra, Greece)

Mental Health Review Journal

ISSN: 1361-9322

Article publication date: 21 August 2023

Issue publication date: 9 November 2023




The aim of this study is to explore the dual-experiences of AN recovered service providers. Prognoses for anorexia nervosa (AN) and anorexia nervosa-like (AN-like) presenting patients remain poor, and notably, no current treatment approach is reliably successful. Past research into AN has focused on singular experiences, those of either AN patients or those of practitioners providing treatment, but has yet to explore the experiences of recovered AN service users now working as AN service providers.


In this study, four UK-based female participants shared their dual experiences of treatment for AN or AN-like presentations through individual semi-structured interviews. Data collection and analysis were conducted in accordance with an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis methodology.


Analysis revealed four primary themes, including barriers to accessing services; the impact of treating professionals’ approaches; displacement of responsibility for treating AN; and the value of dual-experience of AN.

Research limitations/implications

This study focuses on AN and AN-like presentations and does not address the other eating disorders. Additionally, only female-identifying individuals volunteered their participation. As such, this study is notably lacking the voices of individuals of other genders.

Practical implications

Participant narratives suggest that improvements in the treatment of AN lie in improving professionals’ understanding of – and compassion towards – this patient group to optimise the power of the therapeutic relationship across all AN-treating professions.

Social implications

Participants revealed a pervasive misunderstanding of AN among treating professionals that is hindering patients’ treatment and suggested that lived experience can be an asset in a professional context.


Individuals with dual experiences of AN can provide a unique and reflective insight into experiences of treatment through their combined personal and professional expertise and elucidate the experiences that both helped and hindered their own recovery.



Since acceptance of this article, the following author has updated their affiliation: Panoraia Andriopoulou is at the Psychology Department, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece.


Curry, E.E. and Andriopoulou, P. (2023), "“Dual-experiences” of treatment for anorexia nervosa: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of experiences of treatment by service providers who are recovered service users", Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 396-413.



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