Ignorant Doctors.

The title is a little harsh, admittedly – but dang, some doctors make me feel so angry. I know that they don’t all know about eating disorders – and a lot of them have a mere textbook understanding of what eating disorders really are – but they can say some really, really unhelpful things sometimes. Actually, it’s not just them. It’s a lot of people. And it’s mostly a reflection of the fact that there are so many misconceptions floating around about eating disorders. But one would think that doctors might have more of an understanding of EDs than just your everyday individual walking down the street.

I went to see a doctor in my bulimia days about an awful recurring stomach ache I had going on – turns out all that purging had left me with a stomach ulcer. She wasn’t my regular doctor but she was the only one I could get an appointment with that day. She did all her doctor-ey things, talked to me about the dangers of purging food, gave me a prescription and just before sending me off on my merry way told me to “try not to do it.”

Not going to lie, I was a little flabbergasted with that one.

Now I can look back at that and laugh – obviously she really didn’t know a great deal about eating disorders – and perhaps she even thought she was being helpful. But I think one who recognises that eating disorders aren’t a choice and you can’t just switch it on and off whenever you please would try their very best not to say something like that.

I’ve heard a doctor tell someone they looked bigger than what their weight was. He said he had a reason for telling her so; I’m not quite clear on what that one was. So she could go home and starve herself even more so? So she goes for an extra run? Ignorance, or a lack of understanding or empathy on a doctor’s behalf can lead to the ED patient feeling like they don’t really have a problem. That their behaviours are normal. That they must be overweight. That the doctor thinks they’re lying. That the doctor thinks they’re a stupid little girl for even bothering to make an appearance in their office.

There’s a point in here, I promise.

It’s this: how do we educate people? How do we tell doctors about what REALLY goes on in the ED sufferers mind? How do we get people to take these things seriously? How can we help people to realise that the doctor’s opinion may not actually be the be all and end all – and people actually exist who specialise in this field and would recognise the eating disorder immediately?

We continue talking about eating disorders. We continue informing. We become bold in our conversation with others; we become willing to share our experiences so that others may also gain wisdom and insight into these matters. We tell the doctor that what they said was RIDICULOUSLY unhelpful.

Be bold.

Rebekah Xo.

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20 thoughts on “Ignorant Doctors.

  1. Bek,

    I believe you can be bold (and brash and bright and some other ‘B’ words) and I think that having been through an ED, you are best placed to inform the doctors of what they are missing…or you could make cupcakes.

    Up to you πŸ™‚

    Paulie xx

    • Bitchy?! Haha. I like to call is vivacious. I think that may true. I will tell said doctor they are wrong and clip them over the ears and shove a cupcake up their nose, before making a dramatic exit from the room.

      Cupcakes are average though. Lemon tart – now that’s something worth cooking.

  2. So true, in my ED days i once plucked up the courage to make an appointment to see a doctor and seek help. Severely underweight it was very obvious I had an illness, I went to the doctor asking about services available for me and the possibility of seeing a therapist. The doctor replied ‘I can see nothing wrOng, you are young you will get over this hormone stage and mature’ he refused to provide me with a care plan.. Thinking my ED was a teenager thing and I was doing it to be popular??
    Grr I wish doctors were more educated, i left the doctors disheartened and didn’t see another doctor until I was placed in a hospital!’

    • See? I reckon most ED sufferers would have their own horror story. It just makes me mad. I mean, it’s understandable why so many individuals have no knowledge about these things – but doctors really should half a clue of what’s happening, should they not? It just perpetuates eating disordered thinking. And that doctors visit could have been a really good thing had they caught on a little earlier. Thank you for sharing that! xo.

  3. I 100% agree. When I relapsed at 31, my “doctor” told me that I couldn’t possibly have an eating disorder because they were “teenage diseases”…until fortnight after fortnight she watched my weight drop and drop. Eventually, she agreed that I might not be ok…but that I was still not underweight (even though I eventually became so).

    Doctors can be so unhelpful to people with EDs and say things that can trigger the ED further, or leave the person trying to get help feeling hopeless with despair because they are told they aren’t sick enough or that it’s all in their head. To seek help in the middle of an ED is difficult enough without it being invalidated by someone who is supposed to have professional knowledge.

    The misconceptions about EDs are rampant (particularly in relation to it being about body image and/or attractiveness) and the only way we can educate people is to continue the conversation πŸ™‚ As I’ve started to tell friends about my experience, all of them have said they had no idea how eating disorders developed or what people who had them were really thinking. It’s not always easy to think clearly in the middle of it, but that shouldn’t stop people trying to educate those around them…and…then when in recovery or recovered (by personal definition)…continuing to talk about it. EDs don’t just magically disappear once weight is restored or electrolytes re-balanced. The emphasis needs to be put back on the fact that it is a mental disorder, not a vanity disorder.

    Thanks for doing your part to try and educate people. xo.

    • I can’t believe your doctor said that to you! And then to say “Oh well, you’re not underweight.” It’s not about the outward appearance, it’s about how the individual is thinking. It’s a mental illness! Why can’t the doctor get that? And then the patient won’t feel like they have to be proving themselves all the time.

      I have had so many conversations like you, with friends who now have a much deeper understanding of eating disorders than what they knew previously. It’s refreshing actually, and it makes me feel blessed to be able to have such conversations with people.

      I’m scared that a full recovery for me will be not talking about my experience as much. Like that I can’t talk about it a lot if I’m fully recovered. I also suspect that’s not the case, I just need to learn to distance myself from it a lot more than what I have. I don’t want it to always be in the recesses of my mind, you know what I mean? And surely that’s possible to get to that stage where it’s no longer a part of me even though it once was.

      Xo.

  4. I completely understand. When I was first diagnosed with Anorexia I went to the doctor to get some lab work done and just the basic vital checking and all that. I saw the nurse first and when she left i heard her tell my doctor “good luck with her. you’re going to get nowhere”.
    Also, awhile back I had a doctor who once he found out that I had and eating disorder and PTSD literally did not look me in the eye the entire rest of the time. I was so upset. I actually ended up writing him a letter and sending it to him. I actually published it here:

    http://fightingmywayback.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/maybe-someday-is-here-a-letter-for-change/

    I agree there needs to be so much more awareness and education surrounding eating disorders. I have yet to find a doctor that I can truly trust and has even a basic understanding.

    • Did you ever get a reply? That was really brave, well done to you!

      I had to see a doctor in conjunction with my dietitian and psychologist (prereq ;)) and I saw her fortnightly / monthly for a year and a half. She was brilliant. She also was a Christian and a friend to many ladies from my church, so I was very blessed to be able to see her. Keep looking! There are some good quality doctors out there. Just a whole bunch of asses getting in the way of finding the good ones.

      • No, no reply but it was very empowering to send it. It was something I never would have done a short time ago.

        That is awesome that you found a wonderful doctor and even more awesome that she was a Christian and you had a connection with her. I’m headed to a new doctor next week so crossing my fingers that she turns out to be a good one.

  5. Try going to a doctor with an EDNOS, when you’re at an average/slightly above average weight. (I was trying to get a care plan so I could get a rebate on dietitian costs.) First she looked me up and down, raised her eyebrow and said, “Well, who told you that you have an eating disorder? What kind of eating disorder is it supposed to be?” I tried to explain restricting/bingeing/other obsessive behaviours. She asked me about purging and as soon as I said no, she replied, “Oh, okay, so it’s not a PROPER eating disorder where you’d have to see a psychiatrist.” THEN when I told her I was seeing a counsellor, and had been for a long time, she was hugely dismissive because I see a COUNSELLOR and not a psychologist. (So therefore she is useless and a fraud, apparently.) I was SO MAD.

    • I went with a friend to the doctor who has EDNOS and purges occasionally, overexercises and is heading into anorexia territory. So I get it, the doctor we saw was an ass too.

      The thing is this: YOU know their is something wrong so you build up the courage to see someone and seek help, only to be told you actually “don’t have a problem at all, and maybe just tone down a little on the exercise okay?”

      I’m really, really sorry that you have had that awful experience. Really. No one should have to deal with that.

      I think doctors need to go to Eating Disorder College.

  6. Whilst I have an ED, my comment relates more to my depression. I was seeing a therapist for a few months and my depression got steadily worse, to the extent that I was cutting badly every day and overdosing every two weeks. I was ready to die, and I told her that. Her response was to send me to a normal gp with a reference letter that “Lauren may be suffering from mild to moderate depression”. It still upsets me that I could have got proper help earlier. I went to a new doctor who promptly sent me to a specialist psychiatrist and I was hospitalised for a few weeks.

  7. This is interesting. When I went to the doctors recently there was a long wait, and as I sat there I picked up and started reading some of the magazines on the table next to me. The magazines (Vogue, etc) were full of oversexualised, excessively skinny “models”. I don’t have an ED, but asI was thoroughly concerned about how I would feel if I DID have one. Imagine if I had plucked up the courage to go to the doctor, to seek help, and in my nervous wait I picked up a magazine that basically said to me that “THIS (excessively skinny, oversexualised, etc)” was ‘beauty’? Something that would potentially feed straight into my ED motivations and behaviour? I don’t think I’d be able to handle it.

    I now appreciate doctors surgeries that have magazines about gardening.

    • You’re interesting.
      When I was an outpatient at RPA they had magazines like that in the surgery. At an eating disorders clinic! Stupid. And yeah, my doctors is the same. I keep meaning to say something to my doctor, maybe I shall next time.

      Agreed.

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