Eating disorders

Charlotte

Female
Age at interview: 22
Age at diagnosis: 16

Brief outline: Charlotte started restricting the food she ate when she was 14. Later she started binging and purging and she avoids social occasions involving food. Charlotte finds volunteering very rewarding, and is an ambassador for Young Minds and Beat (Beating Eating Disorders).

Background: Charlotte is 22 and a part-time student. She also volunteers with a local learning disabilities group. White British.

Audio & video

Charlotte was 14 when she started restricting food at school - to fit in with her friends. She started to eat less at home too and, to avoid confrontation, became secretive about her eating. Charlotte also started self-harming. She describes herself as a perfectionist who was working very hard at school to deal with dyslexia. Charlotte was diagnosed with ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy) in her early teens but has been symptom free for a few years now.
 
Charlotte’s mum became very concerned about her weight loss and took her to the GP. The GP referred Charlotte to an eating disorder service, but whilst she was waiting for an appointment things came to a head and Charlotte took an overdose. She remembers feeling that some of the doctors were not understanding of what had happened and she felt as if she was being ‘passed around’ within the health service. Charlotte spent four months in a private treatment unit but later returned to NHS treatment. She found the NHS treatment more helpful as there seemed to be a wider range of expertise. When she was 18, Charlotte was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. 
 
Charlotte has had both CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) and found DBT particularly helpful. She explains DBT to work on a hierarchy of harmful behaviours and includes strategies for coping with certain thoughts and actions. It is also more intensive and often spans over a longer period than CBT. She also tried hypnotherapy which she found helpful.
 
Charlotte describes eating in public and in front of other people difficult. She has also binged and purged, and still moves between restricting, and binging and purging. She avoids social events which involve food, but feels more relaxed and able to eat in front of her family. Charlotte says she would like for her life not to be restricted by food. She finds voluntary work very rewarding, and is involved with Young Minds and B-eat. She has found the B-eat website and forums both positive and helpful. Charlotte and her Mum have both used the B-eat helplines and think they are a great source of support. 
 
Charlotte advises people who feel they are not well to tell somebody about their feelings, and for worried family or friends to speak to the person they are concerned about. She reminds people that there are physical and psychological aspects to eating disorders, and urges medical professionals to see beyond just someone’s size when assessing whether they have an eating disorder. 
 

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