Eating disorders

Zoe

Female
Age at interview: 23

Brief outline: Zoe was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 16 but has also suffered from bulimia. She describes herself as a very driven, hard working perfectionist. Through inpatient care, long term cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and her own proactive approach, she is now in recovery.

Background: Zoe is a 23-year-old PhD student. She is single and lives in a shared house. White British.

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Zoe’s problems with food and eating started around the summer before Sixth Form. During her longer than normal summer break she started eating less and exercising more. Back in school, the less structured school routine of Sixth Form made Zoe feel out of control and she was restricting more. Losing weight soon spiraled out of control. She was feeling more and more miserable and studying excessively.
 
Her boyfriend encouraged Felicity to see a GP who suspected an eating disorder. The possible diagnosis came as a shock to Zoe’s whole family. She was seen as an outpatient at an eating disorders unit and for a while, tried to manage things at home. Zoe describes this time as “hell”. Home became “a battleground” as her eating caused constant arguments. Zoe’s parents had to take time of work to look after her in shifts and at worst she could not be left alone at all. Finally, Zoe stopped eating and drinking completely. Her psychiatrist managed to arrange a place for her in the local adult eating disorders unit where she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
 
After a difficult start, things started gradually improving. Once she gained some weight, Zoe’s cognitions were clearer and she felt more able to think through the motivations to get better. After 6 weeks and against the doctors’ advice, Zoe insisted on leaving the unit. She felt able to cope at home, and was very worried about getting behind with school work. Through regular outpatient contact and her parents support, Zoe managed to improve and also sit her A-levels successfully. Before moving onto University, Zoe experienced a period of binging, something she found harder to cope with than restricting.
 
After completing an undergraduate degree, Zoe decided to take up a PhD. At the start of the degree she had a relapse but through long term CBT and the support from her supervisor “it was nipped in the bud”. Now Zoe describes herself as the “wellest I have ever been”. Zoe says she is very driven and work has dominated her life and sense of self-worth, and she is “mindful” of her risk of relapse. She has made a conscious effort to incorporate more social activities in her life and is careful not to overwork. She has also done a course in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and does regular yoga.
 

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