The GP is usually the first port of call and a good base to explore what help can be offered. Your GP can refer you to specialists including psychiatrists, psychology, dieticians etc if they feel specialist review is necessary. You may find it difficult to access these professionals without talking to your GP. Alternatively some GP surgeries have practice nurses who may be able to give advice. If you have someone you can trust at school, college or university then you could talk to them for advice and ask them to support you to seek medical attention.
Your GP will be able to make a thorough assessment of the degree of your physical risk through a series of physical tests and by performing a full physical examination. Detailed questioning about your psychological health will help to confirm the presence of an eating disorder.
From this point an appointment will be made to refer the you to the most appropriate service, this would usually involve your GP making an appointment with a psychiatrist, psychologist and or your local community mental health service. It is possible that these teams may not have the specialty knowledge in the management of eating disorders but they nevertheless do have specialist skills and resources to manage some of the common symptoms that individuals with an eating disorder will suffer. Examples include, but are not limited to low mood, anxiety, low self-esteem and social disengagement.
If the resources in the community teams are limited, and they often can be, priority is usually given to those whose illnesses present the greatest risk in terms of an acute medical or psychiatric emergency. Sometimes patients are so acutely unwell that admission to hospital is necessary and this will either be a voluntary admission or in severe circumstance, if a patient is unable to accept this treatment, they may have to be detained under the Scottish Mental Health Act.
There is often concern expressed about GP’S lack of experience of treating patients with eating disorders, or that many are turned away. Limited resources and increasing demand can sometimes lead to a delay in diagnosis and an appropriate referral.
There are, however, increasing efforts by eating disorder specialists to reach out to GPs and provide education and training with the intention that awareness of eating disorders is increased in the community.
Treatment guidelines for eating disorders published by the National Institute for health and Clinical excellence (NICE) advise that you are reviewed on a monthly basis if a possible diagnoses is suspected.