Eating disorders

Laura

Female
Age at interview: 18
Age at diagnosis: 18

Brief outline: Diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 18, it took Laura two and a half years to get specialist help. Through psychotherapy, her own hard work and support from family and friends, she is now working towards recovery

Background: Laura is 20 and studying to be a teacher. She is single and lives in halls of residence. White British.

Audio & video

Laura was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa when she was 18. She describes a complicated relationship to food already from a young age; being fussy and going through phases of not eating particular foods. At college, Laura started eating less and less and exercising more. She was at a dance college, and on top of the dancing classes, training in the gym a lot.
 
Things escalated quickly and Laura’s friends and tutors soon noticed something was wrong. At first, Laura was hesitant about seeing a GP due to her bad experiences in the past. When she finally picked up the courage to see a GP her concerns were dismissed. After several more appointments with different GPs, and six months later, Laura was finally referred to a specialist unit but who wouldn’t accept her as she didn’t fit their weight criteria. It was finally 2.5 years after her first contact with a doctor that she started seeing a psychologist for weekly sessions. Laura wishes she would’ve seen someone much earlier on as she believes things would not have gotten as bad as they did. She feels that many eating disorder services are too weight oriented and not always addressing the underlying issues. Setting strict entry criteria to services that are purely weight based can be dangerous as she sometimes felt the only way to get help was to loose weight.
 
Laura found the psychotherapy helpful but when she moved away to go to University she had to stop. The town where Laura now lives has no services or support groups for people with eating disorders, except for inpatient care for those dangerously underweight. She has been working with B-eat to set up a peer support group for young people in her area. 
 
Laura says that although she is not fully recovered yet, she at “a point I never thought I would get to”. University life has been hard, especially with no specialist support, and she still struggles with food shopping, cooking and body image. She is supported by a community mental health nurse and she has a network of friends who also offer their help. Laura says her life is so much better than it used to be, and her improved health has opened up many new opportunities for her. 
 

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