Social Factors among Teens with Eating Disorders


. Eating disorders pose a significant health risk among teens all over the world. Salafia et al. (2015) observe that eating disorders may result from environmental, physical, psychological or a combination of the three factors. Although numerous studies have been conducted in a bid to find the best protocol in the management and control of this condition among teens, little is known about the social functioning in young people with eating disorders. This is the reason why %665%,  seeks to conduct a study aimed at finding out the social skills and social networks of adolescents with eating disorders. Eating disorders can be defined as a collection of all the abnormal behaviors associated with poor eating habits and constant concerns about the body shape and size by the patients. Examples of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN).

Patel, Tchanturia, and Harrison (2016) conducted a qualitative study that tries to determine the social behaviors among teens with eating disorders. The research was done among teens aged between twelve years and seventeen years. While conducting the study, a total of six core factors were being monitored. The six factors were; the impact of hospitalization, social belonging of the affected individuals, self-monitoring among the teens, the sensitivity of the teens to issues of social concern, restricted coping approaches as well as schemes for service delivery (Patel, Tchanturia & Harrison, 2016).

Most of the studies conducted on eating disorders present diverse views. To start with, the effects of eating disorders are far-reaching impacting physical, psychological, relationship status and the overall quality of life. Other studies reviewed by %&54 suggest that eating disorders play a significant role in social and emotional functioning of the patients. Some of the social skills impacted by eating disorders include verbal and non-verbal gestures, social cognition and interpersonal functioning. Other studies highlight that social support, operation, and inclusion from social networks play a significant role in facilitating the recovery from eating disorders.

Although supportive social relationships are essential in recovery,  different studies report that teens with eating disorders experience more difficulties within their social networks. Some of the highlighted challenges include conflict and alienation. Besides, teens with eating disorders were reported to less likely to endorse friends as a source of help and self-validation. This is as a result of them having a negative self-concept, shame. A limited social network at the end may result in a limited social cognition and interpersonal skills. Taking this information from these studies into consideration, 3%&666, designed a study that to ascertain the impact of social functioning in teens with eating disorders.


Taking into consideration that this is qualitative research, 3%&655 used focus groups. In total, four focus groups were used. The participants, patients of eating disorders aged between 8 to 18 years, were drawn for this study using the opportunity sampling. The participants were purposively sampled. To be eligible for the study, the participants must have been victims of any form of eating disorders. They must be in the capacity to understand the nature of the research and be able to speak English to a sufficient degree. After they were recruited, the participants were grouped into four focus groups.  The assumption was that the focus groups would provide the participants with a comfortable setting for sharing and discussing sensitive issues.

Each focus group consisted of patients who shared the same ward. They were then provided with semi-structured topic guides. These guides were developed based on the literature search. Each guide contained open-ended questions. The questions were structured in such a way to encourage an unbiased and open discussion among the group members. Before giving out the guides, the questions were first to validate from a group of informants. The duration of each focus group was 30 to 45 minutes. Of importance to note is that participants who did not feel comfortable discussing sensitive personal issues within the group were engaged in one on one interview.

The data analysis technique used in this study was the thematic analysis. This technique was preferred due to its flexibility, theoretical freedom and its focus on the description of divergence and convergence of experiences — the thematic analysis provided for the raw data to be analyzed deductively and inductively. The primary reason for using this data analysis technique was to find out different themes from the data and others through a hypothesized prior.

Results of the study

Following the thematic data analysis, six core themes were identified. Under the first theme- group belonging, it was found that patients of eating disorders have reduced social capital. The meaning of this is that, once they got ill, most patients lose their friends. As a result, these patients were subjected to loneliness, isolation, and abandonment. A good number of patients also reported aspects of bullying and teasing from their social groups. In the end, most friendships ended up dissolving.

Self-monitoring was the second theme. A considerable number of patients expressed that they have a fear of negative evaluation. Thus they fear to initiate conversations and interactions while in their social groups.  These people ended up having issues with impression management.

Under the third theme, social sensitivity, patients reported a high degree of rejection sensitivity and distrust in other people. From it, it was found that the patients were struggling with self-esteem and temperament. The theme of the impact of hospitalization shed light on the effects- both negative and positive hospitalization has on patients social function. Under this most patients reported having enjoyed the company of their fellow patients rather than that of their friends in the community. Under the sixth theme – suggestion for service provision it was found that patients reported that would prefer management of anxiety, development, and maintenance of a social network and development of inter and intrapersonal skills are the key areas the require service provision. In a nutshell, the study found that teens with eating disorders have social difficulties building proper social networks. These findings are of great essence to the nursing practice since they provide ideas and suggest channels through which nursing practitioners can provide supportive information on various platforms to help eating disorder patients get the most out of their social lives. Social support is or great essence to all patients. Building better social networks reduce social pressure on patients with eating disorders. Additionally, friends and other family members play a crucial role in supporting and encouraging teens with eating disorders to develop better and healthy social behaviors which are vital for their road to recovery.

Ethical Considerations

In the process of conducting research, there are provided moral guidelines that researchers need to follow. In the $&*-+, the first ethical consideration was to seek ethical approval from the City Road and Hampstead National Health Research Authority (NRES) research ethics committee Reference 12/LO/0409. Secondly, the researchers sought informed consent from the participants. Participants aged 16 and above were asked to consent for themselves. However, the researchers had to collect written consent of the parents of the participants below the age of 15. Thirdly, before the patients were subjected to the research process, they were debriefed in both written and verbal formats. This helped them to understand the intended purpose of the study. They were also assured that the information obtained from the research was to be used solely for research purposes. Lastly, the participants were assured of anonymity and confidentiality.


Eating disorders pose a significant health risk among teens all over the world. The study by 46777, observes that there are numerous social factors affecting patients of eating disorders. Although multiple studies have been conducted to find the best ways to manage and control eating disorders, only a few have focused on social functioning in young people with eating disorders. The study by $&65 has been successful in examining the social skills and social networks of teens with eating disorders.



Patel, K., Tchanturia, K., & Harrison, A. (2016). An exploration of social functioning in young people with eating disorders: A qualitative study. PloS one11(7), e0159910. Retrieved from


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