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Suzanne

Age at interview: 16
Brief Outline:

Suzanne started being sick involuntarily after eating when she was 14 and was later diagnosed with EDNOS (eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). She has seen a GP and school counsellor but would prefer to see someone specialised in eating disorders.

Background:

Suzanne is 16 and a student.

More about me...

Suzanne remembers starting to have body issues around the age of 12. She felt “fat” and “hated” herself. She says food had always been an issue at home, she wasn’t given regular meals and got used to feeding herself on unhealthy snacks. When she was 14 she suddenly started being sick after eating – not at all deliberately. This soon intensified and Suzanne was being sick every day, at home and at school. Suzanne was also self-harming.
 
Suzanne started to get annoyed and worried about the situation and went to see a GP who said she might have borderline eating disorder and sent her away. Suzanne felt patronised and was left with more questions than answers. After a short while, Suzanne went to see another GP who gave her acid tablets but they made no difference. Suzanne was still being sick, although it was cyclical; coming and going. Suzanne saw a third GP who almost straightaway diagnosed her with EDNOS; ‘Eating Disorder Otherwise Specified’. Suzanne says the diagnosis wasn’t a surprise as she had pretty much diagnosed herself as having an eating disorder. More than anything, the diagnosis was a relief.
 
Suzanne saw the GP a few times to talk things through. She wasn’t referred further because she felt unable to attend counselling sessions at times and places without having to tell her family. After a while of seeing the GP, Suzanne got very frustrated and wasn’t finding the sessions helpful. Her teacher suggested seeing the school counsellor who Suzanne saw a couple of times but didn’t receive the help she needed as the counsellor wasn’t specialised in dealing with eating disorders. Suzanne has not been given any information about EDNOS or eating disorders generally and has had to find all the information herself. She hasn’t told her family anything about the problems and has gotten most of the support from a good trusted friend and online forums. 
 
Suzanne is in Sixth Form and looking forward to moving out of home soon. She believes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could be beneficial for her and wants to find a therapist who understands about eating disorders and who she could see regularly. Suzanne says there is a real lack of understanding of eating disorders and describes a lot of stereotypes that can prevent people from being taken seriously.
 
 

Suzanne encouraged parents to balance showing that they want to help with not being to be too...

Suzanne encouraged parents to balance showing that they want to help with not being to be too...

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I don’t think a forward attack works because that can scare the child. But let your concerns be known and stuff, and maybe provide your child with information so that they can realise what they’re doing. And if the child pushes you away don’t be afraid, just give them space but be persistent. Don’t be in their face frightening them, and making them push you away but don’t be all shy. Keep at it and because eventually or hopefully you’ll be able to get the child’s confidence when they see that you’re not gonna push them away and that you care about them.

 

Suzanne said most people associate eating disorders with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa....

Suzanne said most people associate eating disorders with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa....

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If you said eating disorder to someone, in my experience people think about people starving from Anorexia or a bulimic, bit like sticking their fingers down their throat and vomiting. They don’t really think about the in-between to look at me it’s not obvious that I have an eating disorder. And even if you knew me it’s not obvious, because and I don’t starve myself and I don’t binge. I don’t vomit deliberately. I don’t exercise excessively. I don’t engage in any of the stereotypical behaviours associated with eating disorders, the behaviours that people think that if you have an eating disorder you engage in. And it’s because I think people don’t know that much about eating disorders. If you, if you don’t do this, if you’re not a certain weight or if you don’t make yourself vomit or you don’t starve yourself then, “Oh no, you can’t possibly have an eating disorder.” 
 
It’s in the same way people tend to think that females only have eating disorders, you don’t really think about guys having eating disorders. And it’s just basically misconceptions and lack of information, which means that unless you’re the extreme, then the chances are people aren’t gonna look at you and automatically realise, and even if they do know you the chances are they’re not gonna realise.
 
 

Suzanne said that getting a firm diagnosis of EDNOS was a relief as she had strongly suspected it...

Suzanne said that getting a firm diagnosis of EDNOS was a relief as she had strongly suspected it...

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I went there [GP’s] and we chatted and she asked me all these questions about how I feel about my body, and this stuff, and I could have lied and said, “Yeah I feel great.” But there was little point so I answered her as truthfully as I could. And that’s when she said there was a high probability that I had an eating disorder. And I asked her, “High Probability or do I actually have an eating disorder?” So she got out the list of questions, I answered yes to all of them, and she said, “Yeah you have an eating disorder.” 
 
And I was thinking to myself, “Well I knew that,” because I’d taken all the online tests out of curiosity. I accidentally stumbled across one on the website that I’m a member of. And I’d taken quite a few different ones, ‘cos I got bored and I felt like doing it and I always scored at a very high risk of an eating disorder, or high risk. So it was kind of obvious but it was just nice to have the GP and a professional tell me, so it wasn’t in my imagination.
 
Yeah because you said it was a relief?
 
Yeah. It’s because there was always that chance, even though I scored high on all these tests, there was still that chance, no matter how tiny, that it’s my imagination, I’m just being silly, you know, what’s the test to prove it, I should get diagnosed by a professional. And it was such a relief and also I felt a tiny bit smug knowing that I’d managed to diagnose myself. I was like “Yeah, I knew it.” I knew it, I just felt smug knowing that I was right and that I wasn’t crazy.
 
 

When Suzanne was diagnosed with EDNOS she wasn’t given much information about it. She did her own...

When Suzanne was diagnosed with EDNOS she wasn’t given much information about it. She did her own...

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What did the GP say to you about EDNOS?
 
She didn’t really say anything to me about it.
 
Just that this is the diagnosis?
 
Well she just said that I had an eating disorder and she said it wasn’t Anorexia and she said it wasn’t Bulimia, she just, she was like, “Yes it’s just an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. So I was like, “Okay then.” She didn’t tell me the details about it, any information which is surprising because when most people think about eating disorders they think about Anorexia or Bulimia and all these minor eating disorders, eating disorders people don’t really know about them. If you ask someone about it the chances are they probably wouldn’t know because it’s not one of the stereotypes. So I’m actually rather surprised that she didn’t give me any information for it.
 
You had researched this beforehand and you had information already. Did you go afterwards and look up more?
 
Yeah I did because I was just, I just wanted to refresh the information in my mind and see if there was any new information. But I couldn’t really find any new information. I found that it was rather difficult to find the information I was looking for because it would always be about Anorexia or Bulimia or something else.
 
 

Suzanne thinks there’s lack of awareness of different types of eating disorders. People only...

Suzanne thinks there’s lack of awareness of different types of eating disorders. People only...

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If you said eating disorder to someone, in my experience people think about people starving from anorexia or a bulimic, bit like sticking their fingers down their throat and vomiting. They don’t really think about the in-between. To look at me it’s not obvious that I have an eating disorder. And even if you knew me it’s not obvious, because and I don’t starve myself and I don’t binge. I don’t vomit deliberately. I don’t exercise excessively. I don’t engage in any of the stereotypical behaviours associated with eating disorders, the behaviours that people think that if you have an eating disorder you engage in. And it’s because I think people don’t know that much about eating disorders. If you, if you don’t do this, if you’re not a certain weight or if you don’t make yourself vomit or you don’t starve yourself then, “Oh no, you can’t possibly have an eating disorder.” 

 

Suzanne’s friends threatened to force feed her. Although she knew they were joking, she realised...

Suzanne’s friends threatened to force feed her. Although she knew they were joking, she realised...

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I definitely didn’t feel like that when I was 11 or 12, when I first started secondary school, but in the next two years, sometime around about then I began to feel that way. Because I think it might have been year 9 or year 10, I can’t remember exactly but I didn’t really eat that much. I mean I thought I ate alright, but obviously according to my friends I didn’t because they used to threaten to force feed me and they used to say that I wasn’t eating enough. So there was this sort of joke between us I used to call them the Food Police, and I said “I’m gonna make you a badge one of these days,” and it was a sort of a joke, but I could tell that they were worried about me. 

 

Suzanne felt that health professionals shouldn’t dismiss issues that were important to the person...

Suzanne felt that health professionals shouldn’t dismiss issues that were important to the person...

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And it’s their job as health professionals to try and help people and it doesn’t matter if they think there’s not an issue. If the person thinks there is an issue, at least, you know at least don’t laugh at them and be like, “No, there’s nothing wrong with you.” Because there’s nothing worse for someone’s confidence than to laugh at them, and tell them that there’s nothing wrong. So actually listen to them because the chances are the patient knows best.
 
Yes, you were saying that people themselves will know themselves best, and I guess when people pick up the courage to go and talk to somebody they then should be taken seriously. Because they’ve taken such a big step in doing that.
 
You wouldn’t do that lightly if you didn’t think there was something wrong. You wouldn’t do it because it would be embarrassing if you, if you did that and there was nothing wrong. If you knew there wasn’t anything wrong you’d just be wasting the doctors’ time and you wouldn’t, the chances are you wouldn’t do that.
 
 

Suzanne didn't want to tell her family about eating problems. Her mum found out when a counsellor...

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Suzanne didn't want to tell her family about eating problems. Her mum found out when a counsellor...

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Of course, you know I’d never told my mother or my step-dad about the bulimia, so of course I didn’t want them to know. But you know the counsellor was very he couldn’t really you know advise me that you know you couldn’t go for treatment unless you have parental consent because I was under the age of 18. So that put you know a bit of a, it was a bit of a problem for me. And I decided to say no really because you know I just wasn’t prepared to tell them just yet. Or if at all.

But they did phone anyway and they left a message on the answer machine, of course my mother was quite sort of surprised, and didn’t know what it was about, and I think I did tell her and she didn’t really sort of respond to it.
 

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