Eating Disorder Service
Creating Hope Together

Healthcare Professional's Area

call us: 01244 397 397

FAQs

Who?... What?... Where?...

Starting treatment for any condition can be a scary process, both for you and your loved ones, particularly when you are feeling in the dark about what's to come. 

We have taken the time to answer our most frequently asked questions, from treatment to parking at our facilities, so that you can arrive at the centre feeling as prepared as possible.

If there is anything you want to know that we haven't covered, please see our 'Get In Touch' section to contact one of our centres.

Where do I start?

Will I get better?

There are many people who recover fully from their eating disorder. Some people continue to have symptoms for a long time, but they do learn to cope with these thoughts and feelings and are able to live normally. We do know that the longer someone has an eating disorder, the more difficult it is to treat, so it is really important that you get help as early as you can.

How do I know if I have an eating disorder?

An eating disorder impacts on many areas of life, but the most common signs to look for include:

  • Thoughts about food, weight and body shape dominating your life and interfering with day to day life, such as school, studying, working, socialising.
  • Drastic changes to your weight.
  • Dieting becoming very restrictive.
  • Seeking other ways to lose weight, such as excessive exercise, taking laxatives or self-induced vomiting.
  • Binges- which means eating an excessive amount of food within a short time.
  • Frequently checking your body in the mirror, or weighing yourself a number of times a day.


The impact of engaging in these behaviours can lead to changes in the way you are with family and friends, such as avoiding eating out, or becoming deceitful about your eating patterns (eg 'I ate earlier' or 'I'll eat later', when really you don't intend to, or doing secret food shopping trips for food you binge on). You may also feel physically unwell, tired and irritable, anxious or depressed.

Why are people worried about me? I don't think I have a problem.

Sometimes other people, especially those close to you, may notice problems before you do, such as how much your difficulties are impacting on your life, and how you have changed as a person. It is not unusual for people with eating disorders to struggle to accept they have a problem, and often don’t want to think about it. If other people are worried, it means that they care. Listen to other people, they probably have your best interests at heart.

Why am I being referred to mental health services for an eating problem?

Eating disorders are about thoughts and feelings, rather than food. It is a psychological problem which has physical consequences. The treatment for an eating disorder is both physical and psychological. It is important to monitor your physical health, but treatments are mainly based around talking therapies.

How do I get referred?

Please arrange an appointment with your GP to discuss your worries. Your GP will then decide if you need a referral to our service.

What about my assessment?

What happens at my assessment?

We will talk you about your difficulties. We realise how scary this can be and how hard it can be to ‘open up’ to someone you have only just met. It may take a few sessions for us to really understand your problems. You don’t need to tell us anything you don’t want to but the more we know, the more we can help. We may ask you about your current struggles, but we may also ask you about your life generally as we need to understand what impact your difficulties have on you.

Is everything confidential ?

We will only share information with your permission. There may however be circumstances where we need to discuss your case with other people. Please see our guidance for more information.

Download the Confidentiality Consent Form Here

How quickly will I be seen?

This will depend on the urgency. If your GP feels it is urgent, we will try to see you within two weeks. For non-urgent cases, we will try to see you within six weeks.

Can I be seen at evenings/weekends?

All our clinics are Monday- Friday 0900 - 1700. However some clinicians are able to offer earlier or later appointments. We can discuss this during the assessment.

Can my parent or partner come with me?

We encourage family or partners to attend, as they can often tell us things from their perspective which is really helpful. They may also have their own questions, and they can also help you to remember information after the assessment. We may ask to see you on your own first, and invite your family or partner to join in towards the end.

Will I have to be weighed?

Weighing is part of the assessment and allows us to get a good sense of how much your eating problems are affecting you. It also gives us a good baseline so that we can monitor progress or deterioration.

Who will I see?

You may see a doctor, a psychologist, a therapist or an eating disorder practitioner. All our staff are trained and skilled in assessing, managing and treating eating disorders.

What tests will I need?

This will depend on how much your eating disorder is affecting your physical health. We normally ask for a range of blood tests to assess your overall physical health. We may ask your GP to arrange an ECG (heart tracing) and/or a bone scan.

Where will I be seen?

We will arrange for you to be seen at a clinic closest to you. Please see ‘How to Find Us’ for more information.

What about my treatment?

What does treatment involve?

We offer a wide range of treatments which could include medical, talking therapies, dietetic and nutritional, and other forms of care and support.

How long will my treatment last?

Following the assessment we will write to you outlining your treatment plan. This may range from a few sessions, to more long term treatment. It is difficult to predict at the start as different people respond to treatments very differently.

Can I bring someone to my appointment?

Please feel free to bring someone along for support. We will see you on your own during the treatment, but there may be times when we will involve a family member or a loved one if we feel it is appropriate. You may want to bring someone in at the end of a session so please discuss this with your clinician.

Can I get better without increasing my weight?

Part of the treatment is gaining an understanding of why being thin is so important for you. Hopefully, you will overcome this problem and reach a healthy weight.

Will I need to stay in hospital?

Most people are treated in the community, close to home, with family and friends nearby. It is really important to continue work, school, socialising and other aspects of your life that are important to you, if it is safe to do so. Some people become very unwell and need more intensive treatment in hospital.

Will I be made to eat more?

Our dietitians are specialised in eating disorders. They will help you look at your current diet and your nutritional needs, and help you to find ways to change. Each individual comes to us with different difficulties, and our dietitans will work with you, closely alongside other members of the team, to help you to overcome your worries. You may be concerned that the dietitian will simply give you a ‘diet plan’ but we know that it will be more helpful if we work with you to think of manageable and realistic goals, with a pace that suits you. Our dietitians understand how hard it can be to change, and the anxieties you may have when it comes to eating, but you will soon see that with our help you can overcome your fears.

Who will I see?

You may see one, or a combination of, doctor, psychologist, therapist, dietitian or eating disorder practitioner. All our staff are trained and skilled in assessing, managing and treating eating disorders.

How often will I be seen?

This will depend on how severe your eating disorder is, and the treatment plan. Normally this will range from twice a week, to once every three months.

Where can I be seen/how close to home?

We will arrange for you to be seen at a clinic closest to you. Please see ‘How to Find Us’ for more information

For family & friends

How can I tell if my loved one has an eating disorder?

You may notice that your loved one’s relationship with food changes, or you may have noticed some secretive behaviours which you are concerned about. You may have a ‘feeling’ that something is wrong, but there may also be some clearer signs that something isn’t quite right, such as:

  • Eating behaviours becoming more compulsive and ritualised
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced food portion size/excessively over eating
  • Going to the toilet straight after eating
  • Particularly moody/irritable
  • Becoming more withdrawn as a person
  • Increased physical health problems
  • Increased and extreme exercise regime
  • Not wanting to eat in front of other people

These are only a few signs, but there are many more. Remember eating disorders affect males too. Try to talk to your loved one if you have concerns.

How do I know if this is a fad teenage diet or something worse?

It can be tricky as adolescence is when many eating disorders start, and dieting is generally very common. However, you may notice other things rather than just dieting. You may notice that your loved one’s relationship with food changes, or you may have noticed some secretive behaviours which you are concerned about. You may have a ‘feeling’ that something is wrong, but there may also be some clearer signs that something isn’t quite right, such as:

  • Eating behaviours becoming more compulsive and ritualised
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced food portion size/excessively over eating
  • Going to the toilet straight after eating
  • Particularly moody/irritable
  • Becoming more withdrawn as a person
  • More sensitive to the cold
  • Increased and extreme exercise regime
  • Not wanting to eat in front of other people

These are only a few signs, but there are many more. Remember eating disorders affect males too. Discuss your concerns with your GP if you are worried.

As a family member or friend, is there any support or guidance for me?

If your family member or friend is a patient within our service, there are frequently held Carers workshops which offer skills based learning for caring for someone with an eating disorder. Please contact the clinic for more information. There is also a monthly psycho-educational support group based at Clatterbridge Hospital.

As a family member/friend, how can I help?

Please see our Famiy & Friends section.

How can I get help for my loved one?

Try to talk to him/her first with your concerns. Someone with an eating disorder may not accept they have a problem, may not want to face the truth, or may get irritable when you try to discuss it. Keep being supportive and encouraging, and try not to get angry or irritated although we appreciate at times this may be hard.

. It is advisable that you don’t get into arguments about food. An eating disorder is about feelings not food and conflict around food and eating is likely to make someone feel worse and so less likely to eat. If you have to talk about food do it away from mealtimes, and where possible talk about feelings rather than food.

See if your loved one will go with you to see their GP. Point them to the direction of this website if they are reluctant to see the doctor. If you are very concerned, you may need to go against their wishes, and visit the GP on your own to discuss your worries.

How much will I be told about my loved one's care?

This will depend on your loved one’s wishes. As a service we always try to encourage involvement with family so that we are all working together, but eating disorders can be very lonely and secretive disorders and some people ask us not to share information with anyone. Sometimes they do this to protect their families although we know this can be frustrating for the family. Remember that treatment is a journey, and they may be reluctant to share information at the start, but this could change further along the path.

Will this affect my children?

Children are very good at picking up if there is a problem and can be easily influenced by certain behaviours. It is very important that you seek help as early as possible to avoid any impact on other family members.

Keep communication open. An eating disorder within the family is often like the “elephant in the room” that everyone knows is there but no one talks about it. However, if you have other children, they will pick up that something is wrong and so it is important to keep communicating.

Is it my fault? Was it something I did/didn't do?

Eating disorders are extremely complex and there are normally a range of factors which play a part. It can be normal for loved ones to blame themselves but invariably the causes are well beyond their control. We view partners and family as part of the solution, not part of the problem.

What about my confidentiality rights?

Will you talk to my family?

Only if you want us to. There are certain situations where we may need to discuss your case with others. Please see our Confidentiality guidance.

Download the Confidentiality Consent Form Here

Do my family have to know i'm coming?

Not if you don’t want them to know, however we do encourage family involvement if possible. Please tell our administration staff if you want your post to go to a different address, or if there are certain contact numbers you do not want us to ring.

Does my employer/school/college/tutor need to know?

It is not standard practice for us to inform employers, schools or colleges. However, it is not recommended that you engage in these daily activities if your BMI is below 15.

There are certain situations where we may need to discuss your case with others. Please see our Confidentiality guidance.

Download the Confidentiality Consent Form Here

Who will have access to my information?

We keep your information very secure. We will discuss with you early on if there is anyone you want us to share information, or if there is anyone you don’t want us to share information with. There are certain situations where we may need to discuss your case with others. Please see our Confidentiality guidance.

Download the Confidentiality Consent Form Here

What about hospital?

Will I have to go hospital?

Most people are treated in the community and therefore remain at home so that they are close to family and friends and carry on with everyday life. However, sometimes people do get very unwell and do need to come into hospital.

How long will I have to be in hospital for?

The average length of hospital admission is between three to six months, but this could be shorter or longer depending on the seriousness of your condition and rate of progress.

What happens on the ward?

We have a range of treatments on the ward, and your plan will be tailored to your needs. Treatments include medical, psychological, dietetic and occupational therapy.

Will I get force fed on the ward?

No. Our staff are very skilled at helping you to start eating again. We do this in a slow and graduated way, allowing time for your body and mind to cope with it. There are very few occasions where we would need to use a naso-gastric tube, and we believe this is a last resort when all other treatments and interventions have been unsuccessful.

Why do I have to drink milk?

Milk is very nutritional and contains good amounts of phosphate which is very important to your overall health.

How is my family going to cope if I have to go into hospital?

As with any hospital admission, it will be very hard on the family and hopefully you will be able to find some extra support during this difficult time. It is more important that you get well, so that you can return to your family in better health.

What will happen to my pet if I have to go into hospital?

It may be worth trying to find someone who can look after your pet so that you know he/she is in good hands and being cared for while you are away. Please let us know if you can not find anyone to look after your pet.

Am I allowed to see my pet when I am in hospital?

Yes. You can arrange for someone to bring your pet to see you. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed on the ward, but there are outdoor areas where you can spend time with your pet.

What can I bring to hospital?

People can bring most of their home comforts to the ward eg clothing, photos, electronic equipment such as phones, computers, hairdryers etc. Any sharp objects will be stored for you according to hospital policy.

However we do ask that people do not take photos while they are on the ward. This is because of patient confidentiality.

How Do I get to Oaktrees Eating Disorder Unit?

Please see our ‘How to Find Us’ section

Where do I park?

Please see our ‘How to Find Us’ section

Other important questions

What happens if I go to University?

If you need ongoing treatment, we will refer you on to the nearest Eating Disorder service to your university. You will need to register with a GP practice in your new city.

Can I keep working/attending school?

Hopefully yes. There are some occasions where we would advise you stop work or college, especially if you became very unwell.

Can I go on holiday?

Hopefully yes. We may offer you some advice to help you cope with being away from home and long distance travel. There may be occasions where we would advise that you do not fly.