Eating disorders


Age at interview: 21
Age at diagnosis: 20

Brief outline: James developed anorexia nervosa at the age of 20, having always been very sporty and interested in nutrition. With the help and support of an eating disorders unit and through his own commitment and determination he is now gradually recovering.

Background: James is 21 and lives at home with his parents, attending an eating disorders unit a few times a week. Mixed Race British.

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In the time leading up to James developing an eating disorder, he remembers becoming isolated and feeling ‘hollow’. His family had always been weight conscious and James remembers a turning point after new scales appeared at home. James was surprised to find that he had lost weight and became intrigued to see how much more he could loose. James became “obsessed” with reducing food intake and increasing walking, which he measured with a pedometer. James had always been sporty and interested in nutrition so he knew exactly what to do to lose weight.
James lost weight very rapidly. He compares anorexia to being on drugs; he was spaced out, vacant and didn’t care about anything expect food. His family became very worried but James ignored this. Looking back James says he is amazed how he managed to keep his job. James reluctantly saw a GP but nothing followed from the appointment.
James deteriorated, becoming severely underweight, with no energy to do simple tasks. James was seen by an emergency GP who sent him straight to hospital. He describes this as “horrible”; he felt frightened, undignified and lost all his freedom. He was confined to strict bed rest and all his possessions were taken away. At first James would take any chance to avoid eating but when he realised his condition made it difficult to take his blood and to even find his organs on an ultrasound, he realised it was not what he wanted at the age of 21.
After a month in hospital, James was transferred to a specialist eating disorder unit. There, seeing other patients unwell and recognising similarities in their behaviour to his, was a real ‘eye-opener’. This helped him to change his perspective and make the decision to try to get better. James is the only male and the youngest in the unit, and although he has made friends, often feels like ‘an outsider’.  James explains that the unit has really helped him to get better and is soon going to be discharged to become an outpatient.
Currently, James lives at home, but visits the unit 4 days a week. Living back in the environment where he developed anorexia reminds him of how he used to feel. James is aware of his vulnerabilities and feels prepared and determined to overcome them. He describes how now he is better he can think clearer and plan for the future. He realises that he can only rely on himself to get through anorexia and is very determined to do so.


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