Ambivalent appetites: Dissonances in social and medical constructions of anorexia nervosa

Desiree BOUGHTWOOD, Christine Margaret HALSE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


It is widely acknowledged that inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa is largely unsuccessful, with many patients dropping out of treatment or having repeated, failed admissions. Autobiographical and feminist accounts of anorexia suggest that inpatient regimes are reductionist because they focus largely on weight gain. Being fattened up without any attention to the psychic aspects of anorexia can create an ambivalent, uncomfortable body. The paper is based on interviews with 25 adolescent girls1 with a medical diagnosis of anorexia nervosa2 and offers one reading of how girls negotiate hospitalization. Informed by poststructural theory, the transcripts are analysed using a discourse analytic approach to scrutinize the ways in which girls constructed treatment regimes and medical discourses. The focus is two-fold: girls' engagement with food in the hospital and the dissonance between clinical and social measures of physicality. On the basis of this analysis, the paper offers some suggestions for clinical implications, specifically how hospital regimes might work differently. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-281
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008



Boughtwood, D., & Halse, C. (2008). Ambivalent appetites: Dissonances in social and medical constructions of anorexia nervosa. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 18(4), 269-281.


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Adolescent girls
  • Inpatient treatment
  • Discourse
  • Food
  • Physicality