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People with drinking problems experienced suffering as a vicious, spiralling vortex that encompassed all aspects of their being

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Question How do people with drinking problems describe the lived experience of suffering?


Hermeneutic phenomenology.


An alcohol problems clinic in Scotland, UK.


A purposeful sample of 6 participants (3 men and 3 women, age range 42–61 y) who attended the clinic. All participants met the International Classification of Diseases - 10 criteria for alcohol dependence syndrome.


Indepth interviews were done in the clinic or at the participant's home, and were audiotaped and transcribed. The researcher kept a reflexive journal of thoughts and feelings during the process. Themes were extracted using a framework suggested by Van Manen and were validated by independent expert nurses. An interpreted account of each participant's experience was generated and given to the participants for validation.

Main results

The lived experience of suffering was described in terms of Van Manen's existential life worlds: corporeal, relational, temporal, and spatial. Corporeal (physical) …

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  • Source of funding: Grampian Health Care NHS Trust.

  • For correspondence: BA Smith, Centre for Advanced Studies in Nursing, Fosterhill Health Centre, Westburn Road, Aberdeen AB25 2A4, UK. Fax +44 (0)1224 840683.