Eating disorders


Age at interview: 20
Age at diagnosis: 12

Brief outline: Elizabeth was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 12. Through inpatient and outpatient care and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) she has learnt to control the eating disorder. She wants to be well to have a successful career in journalism.

Background: Elizabeth is 20 and a second year language student at University. She is single and lives in halls of residence. White British.

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Elizabeth says she was always “funny about food”. She describes always feeling like an outsider among her peers; more mature and “world aware”. In order to stand out from her peers, she started controlling her food. At the age of 10 she started avoiding fatty foods and by secondary school was cutting down more and more foods. Elizabeth says it was a slippery slope; she was losing weight and feeling weak and faint.
By Year 8, Elizabeth was too weak to attend school. Her GP referred her to the local hospital where she was told she didn’t have an eating disorder. She was later referred to an adolescent mental health unit but contact was very infrequent. Elizabeth felt let down by the hospital and health care professionals and stopped caring herself. She was chair bound at home and experienced severe depression. Finally her GP referred her for an emergency consultation at a specialist unit in the next county. To her shock, Elizabeth was admitted as an inpatient. She stayed at the unit for 4.5 months.
After discharge, Elizabeth went back to school but was still struggling. She was under eating and felt horrible. She also felt a lot of anger towards the hospital for having made her put on weight. Sixth Form “changed everything”. Elizabeth felt more out of place than ever; many of her peers being apathetic and eating unhealthy foods and soon Elizabeth was in a punishing cycle of exercise, work, restricting food and not allowing herself any fun or enjoyment. Around her A-levels she was put on antidepressants and referred to an adult eating disorder unit as an outpatient.
Elizabeth got accepted to a top university but her consultant strongly advised her to postpone it for a year. She fought hard to be allowed to start with her peers, which she did. While university has been tough and pressurized, Elizabeth has also made some of her greatest friends there. Elizabeth has found CBT helpful; a turning point for her was realising that “I can’t have the life I want if I stay anorexic”. She is passionate about writing, working long days as the editor of the student newspaper and wants a successful career in journalism which requires her to be well and have energy. Elizabeth believes one can never really get rid of anorexia, but learn to control it so it will become dormant.


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