Posted by: carolg1849 | February 27, 2009

eating disorders

Battling to beat a disorder which threatens over a million in the UK – Health, News – Belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Around 1.1 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the UK. Here, Emily Moulton spoke to a member of the Eating Disorder Network during this Eating Disorders Awareness Week

It’s called the anorexic voice. A cruel, persecuting thought which starts out as a negative whisper, but soon turns into a vicious controlling scream which destroys rational thinking and leaves a person both physically and emotionally exhausted.

It is, what most anorexia nervosa sufferers say, drives them to do what they do.

But unless you have suffered an eating disorder, understanding how this nagging voice could have such a profound effect on a person may not be possible.

Debbie McLaron, from the Eating Disorder Network, however does understand.

For 10 years, the 26-year-old from Bangor spent every day battling with the illness which effects around 1.1 million people in the UK.

And while she does not believe you need to be a sufferer to be able to help, she does think by opening up about her own struggle with the illness may help others to do the same.

Debbie was about 12-years-old when she started to feel conscious about her body.

The then youngster was a gymnast and part of the British squad which trained constantly. She explained the pressure to maintain a slim figure to compete led to her developing a negative relationship with her body and food.

“I used to think it was the gymnastics,” she explained as Eating Disorders Awareness Week kicked off this week. “There was a lot of pressure to lose weight. We were weighed all the time when I was in the British squad — every day after training.

“I think this is where it began. I also had a lot of the personality traits which are common among those who suffer from anorexia nervosa.

“I was very ambitious and driven. I was also at such an impressionable age. It was probably a mixture of both which led to me developing the illness.”

For the next 10 years Debbie fought a constant battle with this “voice” inside her head that kept telling her she had to lose weight.

During the worst period, the Co Down woman, who was officially diagnosed with anorexia nervosa with a bulimic sub-type, weighed a meagre five and a half stone. However, that was not what made her decide to seek help.

“I was just so tired,” she explained. “I was tired of fighting, fighting with the voice. When you have anorexia, it’s almost like it’s in the form of a voice. You are constantly thinking about food and there is this voice which is persecuting you 24 hours a day.

“It was like you were fighting yourself. I could not do it anymore on my own.

“I was tired of being that horrible person.”

Debbie explained when she sought help in Northern Ireland she soon discovered there was very little if not any “specialised help” available here.

But rather than give up and fall back into her exhausted regime of excessive exercise and starvation, she sought help at a special clinic in London.

Debbie spent four years being flown back and forth to London where she was treated at Capio Nightingale Hospital in Marylebone.

She initially spent 18 months in the hospital before coming home and travelling for the next two and a half years.

Once she felt she had beaten her condition, Debbie began looking at helping others and joined the Eating Disorder Network — a private business which is not on the NHS and aims to link all of Northern Ireland’s existing services to help sufferers.

Debbie explained the network was an option for people who could not wait the average one and half years to see specialised counsellors in London.

And while she is not a qualified counsellor yet, she will be by June.

“I think my experiences of trying to seek help has definitely inspired me to seek change here,” Debbie explained.

“Something needs to be done. While things are better than when I needed help, they are not great.

“When I first got help here, it was a series of doctors who were on rotation. You never had the chance to build up trust which is so important.

“Also the illness seems to be unique to each person. While there are some obvious similarities, each person is different and that needs to be recognised.

“I think it is important that sufferers from Northern Ireland have that kind of help. And while I think it helps that I have had it, I don’t think it is a criteria for being a counsellor. The specialised training and services is what is important.”

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