Eating disorders


Age at interview: 19
Age at diagnosis: 11

Brief outline: Katherine was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 11. Due to the atypical nature of her condition, she didn't respond as well to conventional treatment. Hypnotherapy helped her change her mindset and start to get better.

Background: Katherine is 19 and a first-year-law student. She lives in university halls of residence. White British.

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Katherine problems with eating originate from around the age of 10 when she contracted a virus. Katherine describes herself as “a chubby child” and during her illness she lost a lot of weight and remembers making the connection between not eating much and becoming thinner. She began paying particular attention to the fat content in the foods she ate, checking food labels and controlling what foods her parents gave her. During the transition from primary and secondary school she lost more weight.  Katherine was restricting more and more foods and by 14 her health had deteriorated severely.
Initially doctors suspected her weight loss was remnant of the virus she had had, but after further investigation Katherine was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Katherine was referred to an eating disorders clinic and was seen by a dietician, psychologist and cognitive behavioural therapist. Katherine was prescribed high calorie drink, which stabilised her weight. However, she says she wasn’t responding to treatment at all; she didn’t change her behaviour and continued restricting. Katherine was told she had a very atypical type of anorexia nervosa; her mentality and way of approaching the illness was unusual and hence the typical forms of treatments weren’t successful. 
Her parents, beginning to despair, looked elsewhere for help. Katherine tried acupuncture which had no effect. She then went on to have  hypnotherapy which seemed to work; she describes how it helped her to change her mindset to want to get better. Katherine realised that she had a lot going for her academically and she wouldn’t be able to progress if she didn’t get better. Katherine decided that it was not worth fighting against doctors’ and family’s advice anymore and decided she would try to get better. She started allowing herself to eat more different types of foods, beginning with small quantities.  
Katherine continued going to the clinic for a while, even though their treatment methods didn’t really work for her. She describes how the clinic acted as a safety net and provided reassurance to her parents. Eventually around the age of 16 her parents allowed her to leave the clinic, with the understanding she would return if she ever relapsed. Katherine found a way to “channel energies” into her school work and went on to do very well. Now Katherine is at University studying law.  She describes herself now “at a good compromise stage”; she is still fairly rigid about food intake and times but is continually making progress.


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