Eating disorders


Age at interview: 22
Age at diagnosis: 14

Brief outline: Annabelle was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 14. She stayed at hospital on three different occasions and got better through the help of a great dietician and therapist. She now works to help other young people with eating disorders.

Background: Annabelle is 22 and a Maths student at university. She is single and lives in a shared apartment. White British.

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Annabelle describes having had “a very bad relationship” with food since the age of 10. The attitude to food at home wasn’t always helpful, she felt pressure to lose weight at ballet school and was bullied. Annabelle started skipping meals and was gradually losing more weight. She was severely underweight when her Mum took her to the GP but her concerns were shrugged off. After seeing a different GP Annabelle was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. At the time, the diagnosis felt “laughable” to Annabelle who associated anorexia with skinny people she’d read about in magazines.
Annabelle was admitted to a hospital where she stayed for 18 months. After discharge her weight yo-yoed for a few years but she was coping better. After her first year at Uni, she was taken into hospital again. Annabelle said she had gotten “to worst ever”. Her internal organs started failing and “everything went wrong” with her body. For Annabelle, this hospital experience was “dehumanising and degrading” and says the only positive thing she gained from her stay was weight.
Annabelle’s life changed at a private psychiatric clinic. She only stayed six weeks but with the help of a great therapist, and the other people there, she was on road to recovery. Annabelle had developed osteoporosis and was also told that her hormone levels were so low that if she wouldn’t gain weight she would risk being able to have children. This made her realise that she needed to look after herself and value her health in a completely different way.
Annabelle is active in supporting other people with eating disorders. She is a Beat (Beat Eating Disorders) young ambassador and runs a local support group. She wants people to understand how serious eating disorders are; she has lost three friends to anorexia. Annabelle encourages people not to blame themselves for having an eating disorder and to reach out for help. She says her life now is “so much better than I could’ve ever imagined”.


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