The Process of Recovery from Anorexia Nervosa
When it comes to recovering from an eating disorder there are many hurdles to face. Most importantly however, the fact that the individual is on that path to recovery is a HUGE step in the right direction! Please bear in mind that this article will focus primarily on AN recovery and no other eating disorders. For further information regarding other ED’s, please refer to Beat Charity or another Medical Professional for help.
It is believed that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder and 8% of these have anorexia. Eating disorders can affect both males and females and people of all ages. Males account for 25% of those affected by an eating disorder and whilst AN is often seen in teenagers, it affects children and adults too. Although the statics highlight 1.25million sufferers there will be any more suffering in silence.
The Path to Recovery
Taking the first step:
The first step to recovery is the individual recognising that they need help. This step takes a lot of courage so when a loved one recognises this it is important to be gentle. It is a very difficult time in their recovery process and much support is required.
Seeing a GP:
When the individual has recognised that they need help, it is time to contact the GP. AN recovery is very difficult to battle alone and the GP can guide them through the next processes. The GP puts processes in places and sends referrals to health professionals such as Psychologists and Dietitians.
What is extremely important to remember is that AN is a severe mental health disorder. AN has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder and it should not be taken lightly! Highlighting the importance of this, it is essential that the individual gets the best care possible. When a psychologist is appointed to the individual the relationship should work well. If the psychologist is not offering the support that is required, a request for an alternative can be made!
Health services for AN is not the best in the UK and waiting lists is something that may be faced however it is worth trying to get another support system. Give the psychologist time at the beginning before making a final decision.
CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy:
This is a key part to recovery however, getting a cognitive behavioural therapist on the NHS can be difficult. Many AN sufferers will never see a CBT which is a devastating matter as they play a key role to recovery. The GP will put in a referral for CBT but it is never guaranteed. If this is something that is faced, going private could be worth the extra cost, if affordable.
A dietetics referral will also be made for the individual. AN patients seeing a Dietitian as an outpatient will have an initial assessment then based on that future sessions may follow. Each individuals experience will differ here and sessions will vary between cases.
Not all AN patients will become inpatients. Most are managed as outpatients and for the mental health and recovery of AN sufferers this may be the best option. Admittance to an inpatient hospital is only in extremely-severe cases when often the damage has gone too far. This doesn’t mean that in-patient hospitals aren’t good and that individuals won’t recover; it is just a very different environment for the individuals. There are rules, strict systems in place and can be challenging.
Alternative recovery plans
The above are a few steps that may be faced on the road to recovery, but there are other options too (if things do not work to plan). It is important to follow the process above but these are some alternative options.
Seek help privately – seeing a cognitive behaviour therapist, dietitian or psychologist privately can speed up the process to recovery. The NHS systems can take a lot longer than going privately as it often the case. It is not to say that the NHS don’t do a great job, it is just a matter of time with the individual and speed of process.
Beat Charity – Beat are an incredible eating disorder charity with lots of free help, advise and information. They offer help to AN suffers and family/friends/carers too. They have numbers to call, chat rooms, support groups, leaflets and so much more. Sometimes just talking to someone who understands AN can be a great help to recovery.
Things to remember during the recovery process
It is important to highlight that recovery from AN is never easy. There will be ups and downs throughout the process and to be fully recovered can take years. Recovery is about learning to love food again, finding peace with body image, removing the fear of food and learning HOW to eat again! Sufferers with AN face many hurdles when it comes to eating again and it is not as simple as “just eating” again. AN doesn’t happen overnight and neither does recovery.
There are many factors involved when it comes to recovery and each individual is different; it is very important to highlight this. For further information on AN please visit Beat Charity and if you have any questions feel free to drop us an email too.