In terms of the importance of early intervention in Eating Disorders, the research speaks for itself. In the words of ‘beat’, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity:
‘The sooner someone gets access to the treatment they need for their eating disorder the more likely they are to make a full recovery. But those affected by eating disorders face barriers to treatment: poor understanding of early signs and symptoms, misconceptions among medical professionals and limited funding for treatment among others.’
One of the most common things you will hear from the mouth of someone suffering, and something that I myself said countless times during my teens: ‘I’m not bad enough to get help’. Unfortunately, in my case, our system seemed to agree with me that I wasn’t ill enough. Despite the clear evidence that early intervention helps prevent further developments of the illness, three out of ten eating disorder sufferers are not being referred for necessary treatment. When I first was referred to CAMHS and diagnosed with atypical anorexia, I was left on a waiting list for 6 months.
Now please take a moment to think about that.
6 months of having no idea how to treat myself, no idea how to prevent the slow encroachment of my illness into every part of my life. 6 months of being unable to go to social events that might include food (pretty much every social event), 6 months of weighing everything I ate, 6 months of developing more and more obsessive behaviours with no help.
By the end of these 6 months I had gone from atypical anorexia to bulimia. My initial illness consisted of very low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, obsessive calorie counting and rule making behaviour. Over time and left untreated, unsurprisingly, obsessive rule making behaviours do not get better. What started with rules like no chocolate and more exercise, ended in a long list of banned foods, strict exercise regime, set times for eating, weighing everything and not letting anybody else cook for me. When I could no longer keep up this strict level of policing what I ate, I became bulimic, with cycles of dieting and then binge-purging.
When I was told by my GP that I was probably going to be on a waiting list for a long time because my life wasn’t in danger, all I heard was that I didn’t deserve help. I was desperate to be heard, desperate to be treated and desperate to escape from the prison my eating disorder had already put me in, and at only 15 I was left to fend for myself.
It breaks my heart to think of the countless other people who are currently in the same situation. It’s like going to a doctor with an infection, and them literally telling you to wait until it’s threatening your life before you can get treatment. This HAS to change. It is absolutely nonsensical to leave sufferers to get worse, and results in them needing treatment for a longer amount of time which actually requires more NHS spending.
This week, 27th February to the 5th March, is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Please check the Facebook page for more info about all the events we have going on!