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Durham University

Department of Anthropology

Honorary Titles

Publication details for Dr Megan Wainwright

Wainwright, M., Russell, A. & Yiannakou, Y. (2011). Challenging the Biopsychosocial Model in a Chronic Constipation Clinic. Qualitative Health Research 21(12): 1643-1657.

Author(s) from Durham


In this article we discuss the results of an ethnographic study of professionals’ and patients’ experiences within a specialist constipation clinic in England. Chronic constipation tends to be poorly understood and inadequately treated. Eleven patients were followed through their illness trajectory during a 5-month fieldwork period, involving 21 home interviews, clinic-based interviews, participant observation, and a focus group. Professionals were likewise observed and interviewed. The clinic could be broadly described as biopsychosocial in its approach. However, professionals expressed uncertainty about how best to provide biopsychosocial care and suggested that some patients were not “open” to psychosocial therapies or to discussing psychosocial aspects of their disease. Patients’ concerns were with being taken seriously, receiving treatment, and narrating intersections of life events, emotional well-being, and the bowels. We situate these findings within the discourse of “functional” disorders and discuss why implementing a biopsychosocial approach is problematic in this case.