‘It was ridiculous’ - Teenage girl who had anorexia speaks out over 20-month delay to getting eating disorder diagnosis and treatment
- Credit: Archant
As a teenager Eliza Moyse saw three GPs, a stomach doctor, and a councillor - yet it took nearly two years before she was finally diagnosed with an eating disorder and referred for treatment.
By that point Miss Moyse's illness had taken her to the brink of death and she now endures stomach and hip problems which she subsequently developed.
It comes as Beat, the Norwich-based national eating disorder charity, today publishes new research which shows three out of ten patients do not receive a referral from their GP to a mental health service - despite medical guidance stressing the need for immediate referral.
Miss Moyse's eating disorder began to manifest itself in her when she was 14.
She became obsessed with 'clean eating' (avoiding any processed foods) and lost a significant amount of weight.
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'I would stand in front of the mirror and pinch myself, looking for fat parts,' Miss Moyse, now 19, of Thorpe, said.
'I lost some weight and people said I looked amazing so I thought I should keep going.'
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Teachers summoned Miss Moyse, a Norwich School pupil, and her parents to a meeting where they were told she needed help - marking the start of a nearly two-year struggle to get the right help.
Along the way she encountered a GP who had little understanding of eating disorders, a gastroenterologist who tried to give her physical treatment, and a councillor who failed to help.
It was only when Miss Moyse was finally referred to a specialist in Chelmsford that she was diagnosed with anorexia.
'The whole process took 20 months,' Miss Moyse said.
'It was ridiculous.
'I saw a GP in his 50s and he had no idea. He thought the best person for me to see was a stomach doctor.
'That doctor told me I just needed to eat more to put on more weight, which is the worst thing you can say to someone with an eating disorder.'
She received cognitive behavioural therapy from youth mental health specialists until she was 18.
'I was told that if I had gone another two weeks without starting treatment I would probably have died,' Miss Moyse said.
'At the start of it all I didn't think I had a problem.
'Then when I was told I had an eating disorder I felt proud. Being skinny is something many people strive for.
'People who didn't know me well were still complementing me and telling me I had a good body.'
After being treated for anorexia until she was 18 Miss Moyse felt she was living a normal and healthy lifestyle, and she turned her attentions toward starting university.
But diaster struck just a few months later that summer when Miss Moyse developed septicaemia, an extremely dangerous blood poisoning. It left her in hospital for several weeks and unable to move after discharge unless she was in a wheelchair.
She said the anorexia had lowered her immunesystem, which had caused the condition.
'I had to watch all my friends go to festivals in their summer holidays and then they went to university,' Miss Moyse said.
'I just stayed at home and couldn't do anything.'
She began to improve again towards the end of that year, and early last year she got a job.
A year later - she has made a strong recovery and sees herself as living a normal lifestyle, although she has moments when eating can be difficult.
The anorexia has also left scars in the form of a hip condition and an intolerance to lactose, but those are small sacrifices to pay in exchange for staying alive.
'It's changed me as a person,' Miss Moyse said.
'Now that I'm better I have helped at Beat which has made me more confident.'
She has been able to resurrect her dream of going to university, as she is currently a first-year theology student in Leeds.
Her advice to others who may feel at risk of developing an eating disorder?
'If you need help go to the doctor and don't take no for an answer,' she said.
There are an estimated 725,000 people in the country with an eating disorder.
Today marks the start of Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
If you or someone you know needs help contact Beat's helpline on 0808 801 0677 or visit www.b-eat.co.uk/support-us
New research published about how GPs care for people with eating disorders
Three out of ten eating disorder sufferers do not receive a referral from their GP to a mental health service for treatment, according to new research published by Beat today.
And satisfaction levels with how GPs care for people with eating disorders were only at around 50pc.
Beat's research comprised a survey of nearly 1,700 people with experience of eating disorders.
The charity is now calling for increased training for medical students specialising in general practice so that all GPs are able to properly diagnose the psychological and behavioural symptoms of eating disorders.
Andrew Radford, Beat's chief executive, said: 'We know that early intervention and speed in referring people with eating disorders is critical if they are to make the best possible recovery.
'It takes great courage for sufferers of eating disorders to come forward and often the first person they talk to is their GP. 'Unfortunately many of our respondents identified poor care from their doctor with many GPs not knowing what the real signs and symptoms are.
'This isn't about blaming GPs, it's about enabling the 50 per cent of GPs who didn't provide good care to be as supportive of eating disorder sufferers as the 50 per cent who did.'
Dr Clare Gerada, former chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: 'Eating disorders are endemic in our society – whether this is down to under or over-eating.
'It's important that we all play our part in improving the diagnosis of those whose problems need help and ensure that there is timely referral to appropriate services.
'I welcome this report which shows the part GPs can have and where improvements can be made.'