Anorexia treatment should not be based on numbers
Leaving treatment until someone reaches a certain category of BMI is harmful. It is also reducing the chances of a full recovery.
So they say that the scales don’t lie……It seems that perhaps they do.
This is topic I am extremely passionate about.
When and how people with anorexia get treatment. It has been brought to the forefront of my mind by a story of someone’s daughter who contacted me for happy post and reading the struggle she was having it bought it all back to me and the feelings I have that go alongside this.
I myself had a long battle with anorexia, I had three inpatient admissions and struggled tremendously with this illness. At my lowest, I was just bordering 5 and a half stone and had lived on three rich tea biscuits for three months directly after being discharged from a long inpatient stay. I lost all the weight I had gained to what was a healthy weight and more in a matter of two months. I was told I was lucky to be alive.
However, you have to ask the question…Why was I only admitted again once I was that low in weight and BMI when it was quite clear that I was headed down a very dangerous path?
The fact of the matter is that in my opinion the majority of the system when it comes to assessing, admitting and treating those with eating disorders is quite frankly screwed.
I know there is a huge shortage of beds, not just among adults but alarmingly children too. The fact still remains, however, that to “access” certain treatment, to be offered a daycare programme, and most certainly to be admitted as in inpatient there are guidelines on what someones BMI should be. The general admission BMI that I have seen in my time, the terrible places some of these people suffering have been in by the time they get to intensive treatment is shocking.
It is well known and documented that the longer an eating disorder is taken to treat than the longer it will take for the person to recover. They have simply become too entrenched in the illness and obsession. That Anorexic voice is too strong, constantly screaming inside the person’s head. Yet people only seem to really get the help they need when they already at this point.
I was once told before my very first inpatient admission that I wasn’t “low enough in weight to be considered anorexic but if I carried on I would be”
A piece of advice to any Doctor out there. NEVER say this to someone struggling with anorexia.
Anorexia by nature is competitive. It may sound strange but almost everyone I’ve ever met has huge perfectionistic tendencies and the two go hand in hand.
Anorexia is also fuelled by goals – to hit the next number down, the next BMI down, double numbers in pounds……Whatever it may be these consume someone with anorexia…..To the person struggling this in their mind will them make them feel like they have achieved like once they get to that magic number they can stop. Of course, this is never the case, it’s never enough. Having a professional say something along those lines to you SERIOUSLY fuels that fire.
So people then go away and engage in very dangerous behaviors but will generally only be picked up for more intensive treatment when their BMI is dangerously low.
Anorexia is one of the most deadly mental illnesses. I wonder whether this actually needs to be the case. Whether people are simply being left too long.
Let me just say, WEIGHT AND BMI DO NOT DETERMINE HOW MUCH SOMEONE IS STRUGGLING. FACT.
I have been a BMI of under 14 and after treatment a BMI of a “healthy” weight……I still felt the same. In my head it was the same, I just had a new body to contend with that I couldn’t bear and I didn’t know how to deal with it but I left hospital on my merry way because I was “healthy”. I then spent the next two months eating nothing more than three rich tea biscuits a day until I had lost it all and more, and was readmitted……..at a lower BMI than I had originally gone in with the first time.
The voice in my head was actually stronger, the frustration was greater because I couldn’t deal with the new weight. In the eyes of the numbers and technicalities though I was “healthy”
This isn’t just me, this is countless people having this same fight and this same struggle. Terrifyingly parents are also having this fight for their children.
The weight and numbers are simply the outcomes of a tortured mind. It is the visible symptom nothing more and so I really hope in time something changes here and that people who are suffering terribly can get the help that they need quicker regardless of the number,
Ironically anorexic patients are told that the numbers are just that, that it won’t solve our problems. This is true, the only way to really start recovering from anorexia is to tackle the underlying issues and what is the driving force behind it. However isn’t it ironic in the same sense that admissions for treatment and the like are too often based on those very same numbers?
I just want to scream this message out there that weight does not equal the measure of someones suffering regarding an eating disorder.
In my opinion, the faster the system can catch up with this notion, maybe the more lives can be saved from this terrible illness.