Research into Anorexia Treatment

Sophie is writing to you about the research project that she is conducting as part of the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at UCL. My project aims to explore how Externalisation of Anorexia Nervosa can Help and Hinder Recovery from this Eating Disorder.

She says

We are carrying out this research because although externalisation (viewing and talking about anorexia as a separate entity that is external to the individual receiving treatment) is a widely used therapeutic technique within therapies for anorexia, research exploring how externalisation helps and hinders people’s recovery from an eating disorder is very sparse. Our research aims to further our understanding of people’s experiences of externalisation in treatment for anorexia in order to learn how this approach may or may not support recovery from an eating disorder. We hope that by exploring a common strategy used in therapies for AN, this project will help to inform and improve treatments for anorexia. To help increase people’s chances of recovering fully from an eating disorder, it is important that we understand the views of individuals who have received treatment for anorexia. Therefore, we aim to obtain people’s views through semi-structured interviews which I will be conducting online.  

We are looking for people aged 16 and above who have received at least one or more NICE recommended therapies for anorexia, who may or may not have reached a point of recovery from an eating disorder, and who are familiar with the notion of externalisation in treatment for anorexia.

To recruit participants, I have posted on my linked in, twitter and facebook accounts. However, I would be enormously grateful for any support that NCFED may be able to give to raise awareness of the study among the target population which NCFED have greater access to. I would be happy for you to post about the study or alternatively you can share / retweet my posts. Below I list my accounts on social media, however, please do let me know if there are alternative or additional methods of raising awareness that NCFED may be able to support with. I attach my leaflet for your reference.



Linked  in:

Anorexia My Closest Love Has Looted Me

All of us here at the office are inundated with Anorexia Blogs, posts and stories. We welcome your writing in hope to treat anorexia, and we know that writing about anorexia helps you if you are suffering.

This is an account of Anorexia written by Lizzie Porter. It is Eating Disorder Awareness time again and we wonder if what you are writing helps others, or helps them to reach out.

We get very sad reading all this ourselves. But it is OK if this helps us to treat anorexia or if this helps you to recover. Or if it adds to our awareness and understanding of the disease.

I do not think that any  descriptions aid understanding because people with anorexia do not really understand themselves; they just describe in a lot of very colourful detail. A starving being is stripped of self awareness. It is up to us psychotherapists to know about the nature of the Voice and to know what else is hidden underneath this condition. It is the hidden material which is not in awareness.

I have talked today to a journalist about pro anorexia websites and what is bad and good about them. I explained about anorexia and what it means if you have it. It isn’t just a wish to be thin and you can’t treat it with threats and promises. It is like Aids of the soul.

If reading Lizzie’s article  helps you, along with all the other books and stories, then we will keep on sharing your stories. Please, please, please, please, however send us more stories about what helped you to recover. Please use your suffering to help others recover, if you can. I recovered from anorexia many years ago and it is simply a shadow memory.  I do not give it house room any more. The wish to be thin never goes away, but the Voice now bounces off a different life for which I am always grateful.

Source New Statesman 

A Sad Story About Anorexia

Deanne says, when I see a story like this I really feel sad. How horrible to be trapped inside this condition for such a long time, and how lonely this lady is. I would like to help her but she thinks she is beyond help. If any reader would like to reach out to Emma Jane please let me know at

ANOREXIA – ‘an ill and morbid state of the spirits, like a skeleton only clad in skin’.
I remember thinking of anorexia as my ‘secret friend’.I even gave her a name.
“Marnie”.Anorexia is MOST DEFINITELY NOT a friend. Unless you think of a friend as being wholly destructive, deadly, lethal, fatal.
Looking back, I still have a very clear memory of the day I decided to just eat Ryvitas. I’m not entirely sure why I picked this particular day, whether there was any great significance in it, or if the little demon that had been quiet enough in my head, had suddenly decided to have a voice and spring into life. And like the friend that I thought it was, I stopped and listened, heeding the advice that it gave me.
I had always had a rather fractious relationship with food, having been bullied mercilessly throughout most of my school life for being ‘the fat girl’, the person that no one wanted to be friends with, like I was some sort of freak of nature, an eyesore, a figure of fun. AND THAT HURT, A LOT.
I suppose I comfort ate. My childhood was fraught with severe trauma and abuse. Those scars having manifested themselves deeply, resulting in complex mental health issues, and at the time I turned to food as a source of comfort, something to enjoy.
On the day that I decided to severely restrict my food intake, I naively thought that I just
didn’t like food anymore. It was no longer the source of joy and comfort that it once had
been. Now it represented the devil, something wholly unlikeable, repugnant and a luxury I should no longer partake in and enjoy.
At the time it caused my family great upset. They just thought it was a phase, that I was
being difficult, dramatic and attention seeking. They seemed to make no effort to understand AT ALL.
I loved watching my body change shape. Hip bones appeared, something that I had never experienced before, I had cheek bones and I felt like I was finally getting the body that I had craved as a school girl, only many years too late.
The trouble was once I started to control my eating, I found that I was unable to stop. The control took over my WHOLE LIFE. It was all consuming and it was all I ever thought about. Eventually I got to a stage where my body weight became so low that I was unable to work, to live everyday life. My first hospital admission beckoned.
I was absolutely devastated when this happened. I had to leave my beloved cat at home and I was so upset that I had failed him, just like my family had failed me. I HATED MYSELF.

My admission lasted approximately 4 months. I attended all of the therapy classes and learnt a lot about myself and anorexia. It was no fairy story, believe you and me.
The day I got discharged I was so happy. Happy to be alive and happy to be reunited with my gorgeous cat again.
And I recovered. I stayed well for many years. I think I was so frightened of relapsing that I put my head down, plugged away at my recovery and made really good progress.
And then many years later, things began to go wrong.
My stepfather died after years of battling with alcoholism. I was absolutely devastated. I felt like I was to blame, that I should haven’t done more to help him. But if someone won’t accept their issues and that they need help, then you are very limited as to what you can do.
I had already begun to struggle with my eating but my mental state began to rapidly
deteriorate. I literally felt like I was drowning every minute of the day. There was no let-up.
In what turned out to be my last day at work, I threatened to jump out of the window unless I was allowed to go home. I became totally and utterly hysterical. I knew for a while that my head wasn’t feeling well but I didn’t really understand the messages that it was giving me, or that I was seriously very unwell.
I felt like I was living in some weird, blurry haze. Nothing made sense to me anymore. I
became very impulsive and tried to kill myself on several occasions. Thankfully I didn’t
succeed. My Doctor was and still is absolutely amazing. I remember going to see him after my breakdown. He asked me what had happened. I said “I don’t know but I know I’m not very well”. A whole load of jumbled up words and sentences came flooding out of my mouth.
That was one of the very few occasions where I saw him panic about my state of mind.
As a form of control, my old ‘friend’ Marnie completely took over my head before I had even
realised it. I HAD TO CONTROL EVERYTHING. It was the only thing that I had left in my life.
Week after week, I lost weight. I just couldn’t stop myself, secretly elated when the scales dropped further each time that my Doctor weighed me. He kept asking me to stabilise my weight and I would smile and say that I would try, but had no intention of ever doing it at all.
And then the morning came where I was weighed and it had dropped to such a level that it was beyond dangerous now. I felt too tired and ill to care anymore. I just couldn’t carry on
‘living’ like this. Except I wasn’t even living, I was just existing and barely able to do that now.
So the next day I met my EDS Consultant and my Doctor at my house. They wanted to
admit me that day, that potentially I had just 2 days to live. I refused as I needed to sort out who would look after my little rescue cat and my horse. My whole world was coming crashing down around me. The 2 things I loved more than anything else, and yet again I had failed, BIG TIME. I have massive abandonment issues after my childhood, and here I was abandoning them. On what was deemed my 2nd day left to live, I was admitted to hospital. No level of understanding or support from my family whatsoever. I was so poorly that nobody expected me to survive the weekend, BUT I DID. T and Ro, my cat and horse, gave me the willpower to fight, fight to survive, to live. I JUST COULDN’T LEAVE THEM FOREVER.
My admission lasted for 6 and a half months. During this time I did lots of writing and also wrote and recorded some songs. It’s strange how life takes you on all sorts of paths and journeys that are completely unexpected, but welcome nonetheless.
The worst thing was, was that I HATED GAINING A NORMAL BODY SHAPE again. Where were the bones I used to thrive on seeing? My once skeletal frame that I accepted was ‘normal’, had disappeared. We had body image lessons where they try to convince you that size is just a number and the importance of being healthy. My head just screamed the total opposite to me.
As soon as I was discharged, I stupidly acknowledged the voices in my head telling me to lose weight again, not loads but just enough so that I would feel happier again. I had grown up with the notion that thin girls are popular and have more friends.
So the weight started to fall off me again. I kept vowing to myself that I would stop. I wasn’t going to make myself ill again. That would be stupid, ridiculous after nearly killing myself only a few months previously.
Except when anorexia takes hold again, it has happened before you even realise it.
Suddenly you’re back to all consuming thoughts and taking back control again to very
dangerous levels. Because control is ALL YOU HAVE LEFT.
Nearly 3 years since my discharge and I’m sad to say that anorexia as well as BPD, bipolar and PTSD are STILL causing me great harm, hurt and distress.
I feel really sad that I have let things regress to this level again. I HATE IT AND HATE
MYSELF for allowing it to happen.
There are so many misconceptions and prejudgements surrounding mental health illness. You cannot see a person’s anguish and suffering like you would for a physical ailment. This is beyond frustrating. Mental illness is just so powerful and domineering. Anorexia is certainly no friend of yours either.
I live in hope that one day, either in the near or distant future, that someone will find the right key to open up my mind so they are able to help me. Until then, that box in my head remains very tightly shut. Emma-Jane Bradbury-Jackson

These Women Say Gyms Must Do More To Help Members Who Have Eating Disorders

I’ve been helping Buzzfeed to prepare an in-depth exposure of gym practices . Gyms are full of men and women who strive to be thin (and fit?);  to shave off fat and to build muscle. Some of these people are overdoing exercise, or are too thin to work out. Some men are abusing steroids to beef up. Some gyms encourage this kind of muscle competition and advise people to take all sorts of pills and supplements that may help. This is just one step away from taking steroids, which can kill and maim.

Do gyms have a moral responsibility to single outEllie Hopleypeople who may have an eating disorder, and tell them to stop coming?

Most gyms have a health questionnaire to fill in for members. But I would like to bet that trainers turn a blind eye to people who appear too thin to pound the treadmill or turn up for their daily 2 mile swim. On top of that, many people with life threatening eating disorders like bulimia, don’t look too thin at all.

If one gym expressed concern, I would also bet that an exercise addict with an eating disorder would just go somewhere else.  Should gyms  have a legal responsibility for clients who run on empty?  I think they have a moral duty. Alongside their advertisements for classes, I would like them to have some health posters up, to guide people against exercise addiction and to help people who might have an eating disorder. They could train staff  to talk to people in confidence and show them where to go for help.

People with eating disorders can be their own worst friends. I’ve heard people say; If no-one has taken me aside and worried about me, it means I am not thin enough, so tha’ts one good reason to keep starving. I’ve heard others deny that they have an exercise addiction; they are addicted to their own endorphins. Exercise addiction – are you or aren’t you… that’s another story for another day.

Gyms and for that matter, personal trainers, have a lot to answer for if they don’t know when and how to say “I’m worried about you- would you like to talk about this?”.I know someone who was driven into a serious eating disorder by a personal trainer who did not know what she was doing.

If this article is taken seriously by just one gym, it was worth writing. If you belong to a gym why not go and talk to someone who will be prepared to read it.

Source Buzzfeed


Living With Diabetes If You Have An Eating Disorder

I thought I would like to share this video with you if you didn’t see it originally on BBC. How do you think we should help people with diabulimia?

Dead at 19, anorexic student let down by doctors: Family accuse NHS of failing to provide specialist care and altering medical records after her death

This anorexia death in 2012 has come to light because of a report blaming the Health Service for failing her care. Is the Health Service to blame? Is the University to blame?  What role do parents have when a child is so ill that they cannot take care of themselves?

Averil was put under the care of a Junior Psychologist who probably did her best. Would it be harsh Tragedy: Averil Hart starved herself to deathof me to say that there is a lot of truth and nonsense being written about this case.

When I have a patient with anorexia, the first thing I urge parents to do is to alert the University beforehand and make sure that a care plan is in place for if a child relapses. The University also has a duty of care to make sure that all their students are well enough to be there.If there is any doubt about this, the Uni should insist on time out until any young person is well enough to keep attending. So it seems the University has something to answer for.

Are parents accountable for allowing a sick young woman to continue studying? If their child was ill, surely it is the duty of parents to insist that their child only continue with their studies if they are deemed a healthy enough weight.

So who should have insisted that Averil come back home and STAY home for treatment? She was not in a position to make that judgement herself. Her illness would also have seriously affected the well being of her friends.

Is the NHS to be blamed for not giving the right treatment?  Anorexia is still very hard to treat. Anorexia is a master hypnotist, controlling someone’s life. It usually relapses unless someone is truly determined to live differently and even then it puts up a fight.  Someone suggested that the right treatment would have made it easy for her to recover. They are wrong, people die even when they get the right help.

The parents are in despair wanting answers, everyone wants to attack the health service. We are lucky to have the NHS at all, in other countries people die of all sorts of things because they cannot afford help. If Averil’s parents had sought help from other agencies as well, like ours, things might have gone better. I cannot accept that Averil was fine when she was young, anorexia always shows up well before people start losing weight.

I am sorry for her parent’s loss. But. We have to stop blaming and attacking, this is common when someone gets an eating disorder because getting help is slow and difficult. Eating disorders are desperate problems and can persist for years, competing with other terrible illnesses like cancer and MS for funding and ongoing care. There will never be “answers” because despite everything we know about anorexia there are some people who won’t recover and who require hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of care during their lifetime.

Source The Mail 2012


Anorexia Research, We Need Your Help.

Hello! My name is Larisa Dinu and I am a third-year student at the University of Northampton. For my dissertation, I have decided to investigate possible changes in autobiographical memory in individuals diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, as well as in individuals who have already recovered from it.

If you would like to take part in this study, please be aware that you will be asked to state your current weight. However, you are absolutely free to omit this question, as well as any other question that you do not wish to answer. Also, this study is addressed only for individuals aged 18 and above. If you decide to take part, your participation, as well as your data, will be completely anonymous and confidential.

The completion of my research project would involve filling in an online form which should not take more than 45 minutes from your time. The following link will guide you through every step of the process: Thank you very much for your time and help!

The women gripped by anorexia: Louis Theroux meets a sufferer who does 2,000 star jumps DAILY to burn calories and a 63-year-old who makes one boiled sweet last a WEEK

Louis Theroux meets with anorexia sufferers to understand how they are gripped by the deadly disorder. Pictured with Rosie, left, and Ifzana, right

If you did not already know how serious and compulsive Anorexia is, this new film by Louis Theroux may convince you. Louis is an investigative reporter who has the confidence of many people with issues; murderers, paedophiles and now people with eating disorders. 

For those of us who help people with Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating, it can be a hard slog. Sufferers think we are only interested in weight gain. We aren’t, we want to try and help our clients be set free from what at times feels like the possession of a demon. We just want people to be happier and to flourish. They have been born, we hope that we can help make their lives worthwhile.

If you have Anorexia, it can feel as if the safest option is just to be left alone with your tormenting friend,  but it isn’t a happy place. People with anorexia are 57 times more likely than someone well- fed, to commit suicide.

One of my counsellors yesterday groaned I HATE Anorexia, yet here she is, waking up each morning, ready to do battle on behalf of yet another captive.To all my counselling colleagues may I say “Let The Force Be With You”. We will continue to do battle, we will try even harder to find a way out, one person at a time, one day at a time.

Source, The Mail online

Overshadowed: The BBC3 Vlogging Drama Tackling Anorexia

Michelle Fox in Overshadowed

‘Overshadowed’ – the new BBC 3 mini-drama on anorexia, deals with the difficult portrayal of a horrific illness. The series depicts the brutal reality of anorexia without glamourizing the illness.

Something quite unique to this portrayal, which may ring true to many anorexia sufferers, is the personification of the anorexic ‘voice’.  This ‘voice’ is often with the sufferer day and night, speaking to them as loudly and clearly as a real person. As portrayed in ‘Overshadowed’, this voice often starts as a friend – encouraging diet and exercise, praising the sufferer for their weight loss. Many find this comforting. As the illness progresses, the voice turns from friend to foe. The voice becomes critical, malicious. The voice tells the sufferer that they are ‘worthless’ or berates them for ‘lacking willpower’ to practice extreme diet and exercise regimes. It encourages them to distance themselves from friends and family who may be trying to help. Many anorexics will not admit to hearing a voice. But more often than not, it is absolutely there.

NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) techniques can help sufferers to actually control this voice in a way that other treatments cannot. At the NCFED we are trained to bring the Voice under control.

It is important to note that this mini-series was filmed over just 12 days and the lead actress Michelle Fox, whilst certainly petite, did not lose any weight for this portrayal. Weight-loss type effects were achieved with make-up and clothing. The script was written by Eva O’Connor, who is a recovered anorexic herself, which may explain why this portrayal of the anorexic experience is more accurate than many others. In fact, Eva personally plays the role of the anorexic voice.

If you or a loved one is affected by any of the issues raised in this program, get in touch with the NCFED for help.

Source: BBC Three

Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia

 Mark and Maddy Austin in Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia.

It is a month since Mark Austin made a TV programme about his daughter Maddy’s anorexia. He has done this to point out how hard it is to get treatment when a child begins to waste away. The Duke of Cornwall got involved as well, but has it changed anything very much- not yet. It was brave of Maddy to take part in this programme. I wonder how she really felt about it. I wonder how she is now, if her anorexic voice has gone away.

Mark and his missus told us a harrowing story about how they coped with Maddy’s anorexia. How his wife had to sleep with Maddy to keep her safe, to make sure that she didn’t die during the night. How he told her to go away and die if that was what she wanted, in frustration at how powerless he felt. There is a line in the book ‘Heart of Darkness’ which speaks to me about anorexia. The Horror; The Horror.

We are all so glad that Maddy found the help she needed at an eating disorder clinic in Surrey which nursed her back to health. But I am left wondering exactly what the nurse practitioner actually did and said to her. So I am left frustrated, wanting to know if there is some sort of secret about anorexia recovery that despite all my years of experience, I haven’t found quite yet.

We had a phone call today from a mother whose daughter has  anorexia for 7 years. They exist in a tormented relationship, mother trying to help, daughter lashing out, sick husband living on the sidelines witness to a daily living hell. For years I felt I didn’t have the courage to work with anorexia, now I do, I am not afraid to face it. I have to go so deep down to find the person who has become its prisoner, and from time to time come to the surface gasping for air. The air is always there.


The Guardian