UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


The Anorexic Voice: A Dialogical Enquiry and Thematic Analysis

The Anorexic Voice: A Dialogical Enquiry and Thematic Analysis (pre-print; Sarah Burnett-Stuart, Lucy Serpell, Natalie Chua, Chloé Georgeaux-Healy, Matthew Pugh)


Although prevalent among those given a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa (AN), the internal anorexic voice (AV) is little understood. This study aimed to explore the AV’s role in the development and maintenance of AN from a new perspective – that of the AV itself. Nine women with a diagnosis of AN participated. Data was collected via dialogical enquiry, which entailed direct, semi-structured interviews with participants’ AVs. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. Three themes build a picture of a symbiotic yet destructive relationship between AV and individual. Firstly, ‘Pragmatism’ describes the AV’s supposedly invaluable, problem-solving persona. Secondly, ‘Relationship’ depicts the valued yet fraught, unbalanced, and often unwanted bond between AV and individual. Thirdly, ‘Self-preservation’ presents the AV’s drive to retain control for its own survival. In clinical practice, curiosity regarding relationships with AVs could highlight barriers to recovery and inform treatment.