The focus on weight in the inpatient care of anorexia nervosa: A qualitative investigation of consumer perspectives

Publication Name

International Journal of Mental Health Nursing


Anorexia nervosa has a high mortality rate and is often treated in the inpatient setting, where close monitoring and medical support are available. Consistent with objective biomedical benchmarks, conventional inpatient treatment is often focussed on weight gain. Consumers report that clinicians provide care focussed on weight and physical restoration without adequate consideration of their full spectrum of needs. The aim of this study was to explore consumers' perspectives of the biomedical focus on weight gain in the inpatient care of anorexia nervosa. This study employed a qualitative approach, involving semistructured interviews, and participants were recruited from relevant social media communities. This study was ethically approved by a university ethics committee and the COREQ checklist ensured ethical reporting. Ten women participated in interviews. Participants reported that the biomedical imperative of weight gain is focussed on at the exclusion of other relevant determinants of well-being, and the narrow focus on weight gain does not suitably prepare consumers for discharge. The conflict between clinicians' biomedical focus and consumers' broader unmet needs leads to harmful interpersonal dynamics and feelings of invalidation. The inpatient care of anorexia nervosa needs to develop beyond biomedically driven objectives and incorporate the merits of an approach that substantively integrates person-centred care, therapeutic relationships and trauma-informed principles.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access

Funding Sponsor

University of Notre Dame Australia



Link to publisher version (DOI)