Eating disorders


Age at interview: 21
Age at diagnosis: 13

Brief outline: Katie was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 13. She was an outpatient at an eating disorders unit for four years and with the help of a great therapist is now in recovery. For years, she couldn't believe that 'life without this is better than with it'.

Background: Katie is 21 and works as a research assistant. She is single and lives in a shared house. White British.

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Katie started losing weight around the age of 12. She had experienced a lot of bereavement and illness in her family and she says her dieting went unnoticed as there was so much going on around her. First she just wanted to be healthier but gradually lost more and more weight. After a school skiing trip her school contacted her mum who took Katie to the GP.
Katie saw a couple of different GPs and was eventually referred to a paediatrician and a psychiatrist. At the age of 13 she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Katie says she didn’t believe the diagnosis for a while but wasn’t too bothered about it as she felt “emotionally numb” about her life at the time. She describes feeling tired and angry all the time, feeling sick and achy and having headaches daily. Her periods also stopped. Taking part in a clinical trial, Katie was assigned to an outpatient programme at a specialised eating disorder unit. Katie was an outpatient for a few years and had a great therapist who played a major part in her getting better. Katie has developed osteopenia and is on calcium supplements and she was also diagnosed with depression and put on medication.
Going to university was another turning point in Katie’s life. Moving away from home and starting life somewhere new broke “a lot of bad habits and routines”. Living with other people and seeing what, how and how much they ate helped Katie gain a sense of balance. Katie says she missed out on a lot when she was growing up. As she was ill for most of her teenage years she says she “didn’t know how to be a teenager”. At university, her social life and moods improved and she made good friendships.
Now Katie has a fulltime job in research. She also volunteers with a lot of charities working with young people. For Katie, recovery means being able to control thoughts around food and eating. Katie describes how difficult it was for her to let go of an eating disorder after it had been a major part of her life for so long. She experienced a sense of grief over it. Now she says that she’s learnt to “believe that life without this is better than life with it”.


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