It can be hard to talk to your GP about your eating disorder for the first time, but it’s important that you ask for help. The sooner you get treatment, the better the chance of recovery. From someone who’s been there, here are my tips:
Book a double appointment
Standard appointments are only 10 minutes long so it’s a good idea to book extra time. Remember that you don’t have to tell the receptionist the exact nature of your problem when you book, you can just say it is something you only wish to disclose to the doctor.
Be as honest as possible
You’re being very brave by talking to a professional in the first place, so it’s not a time to hold back. Your privacy is guaranteed and you will not be judged.
Have plan for what you want to say
As well as describing how you are feeling, it’s helpful to give your GP specific details of how much and how often you have been binging, purging, restricting (or engaging in any other disordered eating behaviour). Take information you have found online or written notes/prompts with you, e.g: “I’ve been having a lot of difficult thoughts like ___” or “I do things like ____ and I’ve been doing this approximately ___ times per day/week/month.”
Expect to get emotional
It doesn’t matter how well prepared you are, you’re doing something very challenging and personal. It’s ok to be overwhelmed.
You do not have to be weighed or told your weight/BMI if you don’t want to know it
You can absolutely say no if you would rather not be weighed during your appointment. If the doctor is very keen to do this, you can ask them not to tell you your weight or talk about BMI’s with you (I wish I had known that I could do this).
Take notes if needed
It can be useful to take notes or tell someone you trust exactly what happened or was said quite soon afterwards, as it can be hard to recall these details later on. You could also ask the doctor to provide you with a brief written or recorded summary at the end of your appointment if they are able to.
Do not let your problems be dismissed
This can be very hard to do at first, and perhaps like me, you’ll find it’s not something that comes easily. But remember that eating disorders are serious and you’ve made the effort to start talking about your concerns, which is the right thing to do. Eating disorders can happen to anyone of any gender, age or weight. None of these things should be suggested to you as a reason for your feelings, or as a reason to take your concerns less seriously.
Make sure to book a follow-up appointment
The doctor will most likely suggest a further appointment, so be sure to book it as soon as you can. If you think you would feel more comfortable speaking with another doctor this is something you can request. You may not be able to insist on seeing a particular GP, but you should not be made to speak with someone that you do not want to.
Take a friend or have someone you trust waiting for you nearby
If you feel it would help you to open up to the doctor, consider having someone you’ve confided in with you for moral support (during the pandemic, it’s best to check this is ok ahead of time). Alternatively, you could ask that person to be ready to support you after the appointment when you may be feeling very tired and emotional.
Have some safe, chill out time planned for afterwards so you can decompress
Don’t plan anything else stressful or important after your first appointment. The effect of acknowledging and admitting to having worries about your mental health can never be underestimated. You’ve just done something incredibly brave and difficult, and you may be feeling overwhelmed or completely numb. Be kind to yourself and rest for however long you need to.
“As I’ve often been asked what it’s like to get help for themselves or someone they know. I hope my story and tips will help.”