Eating disorders

Hannah O

Male
Age at interview: 22
Age at diagnosis: 13

Brief outline: Hannah O was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 14. Through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as an inpatient and a few years of outpatient treatment she is now in recovery. She says getting better has been really hard but she is now happier she was ever been.

Background: Hannah O is 22 and lives together with her boyfriend. She studies Maths at university and is currently in work placement. White British.

Audio & video

Hannah O started losing weight around the age of 12. She remembers a distinct feeling of guilt over eating chocolate, which she’d never had before. She started exercising more and more and remembers being complemented on her losing weight, which encouraged her to keep going. Losing weight spiraled out of control and, dangerously underweight at the age of 13, Hannah O was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. 
 
Hannah O was admitted to a general children’s hospital and a week later to a specialist eating disorder unit where she stayed for five months. Hannah O feels that she was very “lucky” because the unit she stayed at was “really nice”. While she felt angry about being admitted, she also felt a sense of relief that “someone was able to help me and it wasn’t normal to feel this horrible all the time”. Hannah O found Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) particularly helpful and she also found a lot of support from the other young people staying there and has kept in touch with some of them. Receiving the diagnosis, and for years afterwards, Hannah O says she still didn’t think she had anorexia.
 
After discharge, Hannah O found it difficult to cope. Her periods returned and she didn’t feel she could cope with her body changing. Hannah O started making herself sick and bingeing. She was exercising more and hiding foods, at the same time wanting for someone to notice what was happening. She later went onto have outpatient treatment for six years. When she failed her A-levels, whilst her friends made plans to go to uni, Hannah O decided she wanted to get better. She was “fed up of being sick and feeling horrible all the time” and wanted to be carefree like her friends. Hannah O set herself a goal to work towards, she did her A-levels in a year and got accepted to University.
 
The final “changing point” for Hannah O was going to university. She said she could start a completely new life, where people didn’t know her or that she had been ill; “you could become what you want to be”. Hannah O describes her relationship to food and eating now the best it’s ever been. She says the hardest thing about recovering from an eating disorder is that when you’re really ill, you don’t want to get better, or even know that you are ill.
 

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