Emma a service user with eating disorders

Emma’s parents were worried that their 16 year old daughter would die. For over a year, they perceived her to be on a diet that had no conclusion.

The 'diet' was in fact making Emma more withdrawn, depressed and anxious; symptoms of a much more serious eating disorder. Every time they expressed concern she burst into tears or shouted at them. She had stopped eating with the family and spent most of her time in her bedroom. She was still going to school and doing extremely well in her exams but her friends were worried about her. Emma’s parents had repeatedly suggested that she went to see the doctor but she insisted there was nothing wrong with her and told them to leave her alone. Her parents had started to disagree about how to handle her and argued frequently. Emma’s brother and sister were very angry with her and wouldn’t talk to her.

Emma’s parents received a call advising them that Emma had fainted and was in hospital.

She was discharged soon but with the recommendation that they saw an eating disorders specialist.

Emma’s parents took her to the GP who referred her to an eating disorder service. She was admitted immediately to the eating disorders service at the Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal because her weight was so low it was dangerous. Her pulse was 36/min and her temperature 34.5C.

After a thorough assessment of not only her physical condition but also her psychiatric state she had blood drawn and an ECG performed. Because of her bradycardia and hypothermia she was nursed on bed rest with a nurse constantly in attendance. She was gradually re fed.

As her weight went up, her observations improved. She began participating in the intensive care programme and was allocated an individual therapist.

After four weeks she was moved to an acute maintenance bed and participated in the group programme of anxiety management, body image and nutritional groups. In her individual therapy she addressed a number of life events and issues which had caused her considerable stress and distress prior to the onset of the illness.

When she had some time out and then weekend leave she related much better to her family. They all believed the family therapy had helped, as well as the carer support group and education sessions.

Emma was pleased that she had been able to carry on with her AS level study whilst an inpatient and held on to her dream of going away to university.

On discharge 16 weeks later Emma had gained control over her illness, dealt with a number of significant life issues and was looking forward to relating more appropriately with her friends again. Her family was more relaxed as they knew how to help her and did not fear for her life or their helplessness.

They all knew that it was early days, that the risk of relapse was high and that they needed a lot more therapy. Most importantly, they all had hope.