Eating disorders


Age at interview: 21

Brief outline: Emily has experienced bulimia since she was 11 and she was diagnosed with depression in her late teens. With the help of her GP and antidepressants she has learnt to deal with negative thoughts around eating, food and body image and is now recovering.

Background: Emily is 21 and a University student. She is single and lives in halls of residence. White British.

Audio & video

Emily first started making herself sick after eating around the age of 11. At the time it was a way for her to have something to herself, to keep from other people, and was not about losing weight. Later on Emily came to realise that the problems she was experiencing at home probably also contributed to developing bulimia.
Emily describes that making herself sick became “a habitual thing” and gradually linked to body image. At 17, Emily decided to confide in a trusted teacher. She was very understanding and encouraged Emily to tell her closest friend. Emily was impressed how supportive her friend was and explains how good it was to have someone to talk to about her bulimia. 
The teacher also advised Emily to visit the school counsellor and her GP which she did. However Emily found the counsellor was more equipped to address issues such as bullying and so could not help. The GP also had little knowledge about eating disorders and just gave Emily some phone numbers to call which turned out to be urgent services for people with severe anorexia.
When Emily started university she sought help from her new GP. She was offered a place to take part in cognitive behavioural trials but due to impracticalities of the study, Emily decided not to take part. The consultant she saw a couple of times suggested Emily might have depression, in turn contributing to bulimia. First Emily thought it was “a ridiculous” suggestion as she had always considered herself a positive and happy person. However when considering the symptoms she soon realised they applied to her and she was diagnosed with clinical depression. 
After initial hesitations, Emily has got help from antidepressants and she also visits her GP every few weeks. Feeling better generally has in turned helped with bulimia. 
Emily says it’s “amazing how much life can change” and how she never thought she could overcome “this insurmountable mountain”. Now, despite her bad days, thinking about food, eating or body image is not a “constant tally” of worry on her mind anymore. Emily says she can now see a happy future.


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