Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jane Jorgenson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keith Berry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sonia Ivancic, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nathan Johnson, Ph.D.


autoethnography, coping, food, IBD, qualitative methods, self-blame, exposure


This dissertation is an interpretive project that uses autoethnography and qualitative interview methods to understand the role Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) plays in women’s quality of life and interpersonal relationships. It focuses on the impacts on patients of dietary changes and how food choice serves to make this ordinarily “invisible” illness visible to others, leading to unwanted exposure. Using Erving Goffman’s stigma theory and its extensions in studies of chronic illness, I demonstrate that IBD is characterized by layers of stigma because it creates situations in which patients are forced to disclose their illness even if they are not ready to do so. These stigmas are compounded when the patient is seen as bringing the illness on herself by voluntarily eating foods that deviate from traditional definitions of “healthy” eating. This study shows the need for further investigation of the discourses surrounding healthy eating. The findings also show the problems inherent in IBD treatment models which assume that patients should practice rigorous self-management. It argues for changes in how doctors or patient providers communicate with their IBD patients so that dietary changes as a part of self-management are presented in more compassionate and patient-centered ways.

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