There are 3 types of clinical eating disorder. At their root, all of them are concerned with control of weight and shape. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and EDNOS (Eating Disorder not otherwise Specified) which may include compulsive eating, and types of anorexia or bulimia which are not as severe.

The month of February brings us the Eating Disorder Awareness week.

I have taken time to speak to our Psychotherapeutic Counsellor – Julie Field– who has her private practice here at Rowan House and also works at Newmarket House Clinic in Norwich, a residential unit for the treatment of eating disorders in adults.


Hello Julie and thank you for taking time out to speak to me about Eating Disorders.

Why does someone get an eating disorder?

There is no simple explanation for this even though much research has been undertaken to find out. It would be wrong to simply blame culture, fashion magazines/press, family relationships, early traumatic experiences or abuse. However, we do know that an ED arises from a COMBINATION of personal, family, physical or genetic factors as well as life experiences that may cause someone to be emotionally vulnerable. Dieting also has a role to play in the development of an ED and I think it would be fair to say that in general, most sufferers’ ED begins with dieting behaviour

So what’s the connection between dieting and eating disorders?

Most people diet at some point in their lives. There is an assumption that weight loss will make us happier and more attractive to others AND ourselves. Dieting success provides accomplishment and feelings of control – it may also attract positive feedback from others. This is poignant when we generalise sufferers’ common feelings:-

  • Feelings of powerlessness/worthlessness
  • Sensitive to rejection/abandonment
  • Perfectionist attitudes for themselves though not expected of others
  • People pleasers
  •  Lacking confidence in managing relationships in a way that serves their needs as opposed to those of other people

How long do your sessions last?

It’s called a therapeutic hour – 50 minutes!

How do you know when someone is on the road to recovery? Would you say there is a particular time frame you see recovery starting?

Recovery is unique to each sufferer. Treatment is invariably lengthy as it seeks to not just remove dangerous behaviours but also to strengthen the sufferer mentally and make them happier.

How would you describe your therapeutic approach?

I am an integrative therapist so my work is very much about my relationship with my client and creating a strong and entrusting working contract (working alliance). The same approach does not work for every client and this is important to remember. I do a lot of CBT work in the short term although I enjoy working psychodynamically and looking at attachment styles. I find mindfulness is really helpful in therapy as is transactional analysis and Gestalt (empty/third chair work).

Do you have any advice if someone feels that their loved one/someone close to then may have an Eating Disorder?

Yes – for sure. Firstly, it is important to remember that a person suffering with an ED is NOT just awkward, vain or even stubborn. They are suffering a severe and often enduring mental illness that is capable of causing a lot of physical and emotional damage. There is a deficit in their ability to cope with life in a healthy way. These deficits could be an inability to deal with powerful feelings or they can arise from memories of abuse or neglect. Their nervous system often has no way of regulating itself in everyday challenges and subsequently, they are unable to select the right course of action. The eating compulsions that you then see on the surface – is their solution to the turmoil that’s really happening for them.

Do not be afraid to seek help for them immediately. Having a loved one behaving in this way is a horrible thing to live with. Food is life – it is meant to be something to share and enjoy! In the crazy world of an ED – this is stripped away from family life. Your GP should always be a first port of call.

As a carer, it is wise to gather as much information on the specific ED and even more importantly, to seek some support for yourself especially through times of stress and despair. Your loved one requires love, sympathy and support. You will need to offer a huge amount of your patience and time.

Always have hope…


Julie Field works from Rowan House on Friday’s.

Rowan House will be taking part in the ‘Sock It to Eating Disorders’ campaign on Friday 26th February 2016.  Keep an eye out on our Facebook Page for more information.

Julie Field has carried this blog on by speaking to us about ‘What is Body Image’.