Eating disorders: 'It could've been picked up earlier'

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Annabelle Harris remembers the first time she eventually saw a doctor about her eating disorder.

Annabelle Harris - who had an eating disorder

"I was about 13 or 14 years old when my mother took me to the GP. "It was difficult for me to understand I had a problem because anorexia wasn't something I thought I had.

"I thought I was someone I enjoyed food, I didn't see myself as emaciated."

The 26-year-old medical student from London said her focus on food began from the age of 10.

"Actually it's really difficult to say what triggered it - it could have been a genetic predisposition, life stresses, things going on at school "It was an area of my life I could control, so when other things were going wrong, focusing on my food was a comfort for me."

Annabelle Harris who had an eating disorder - Anorexia nervosa

At the age of 13, her weight fell to under five stone, but she said her journey to recovery took "too long".

"When I was diagnosed, I was then monitored but essentially told my BMI (body mass index) was too high to receive outpatient treatment.

"That what was a big issue, because you can imagine how that must feel as an anorexic, to be told you're too heavy to receive treatment.

"My weight dropped lower and lower until I then had to receive more intensive treatment."

Annabelle spent years being treated before suffering a relapse and receiving repeat treatment. In that time she lost eighteen months of education and was forced to drop half of her GCSEs.

"The whole process took far too long, and it shouldn't have."

'The six year cycle'

Annabelle Harris who had an eating disorder - Anorexia nervosa

A new survey by the eating disorder charity Beat suggests that most sufferers are trapped in a six year cycle of treatment, recovery and relapse.

Susan Heywood is its chief executive says this then goes on to have a huge long term impact on the cost. "The cost includes NHS treatment, private, treatment, employment days lost, cost to education and the price families have to pay out to visit people in hospital and be involved in their treatment and care."

Speaking to 435 people with a range of eating disorders and 82 carers across the UK, it found that on average:

It costs £8,850 a year to treat a person for an eating disorder with some respondents indicating they've paid up to £100,000 annually.

It costs sufferers under the age of twenty £650 a year in terms of loss of earnings and education

It costs sufferers above twenty £9,500 a year in terms of loss of earnings and education

It costs carers £5,950 a year in terms of loss of earnings

In response to the report, Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb told Newsbeat: "The pressures of growing up in today's world are complex and can be very serious. We know that, if left untreated, eating disorders are devastating for those affected and their loved ones.

"That's why we're investing £150million to provide the right support at the right time and provide a lifeline for these families. "This report makes a clear case for local areas to invest in better care for young people with eating disorders so that no-one is left struggling alone."

'Careful of triggers'

Annabelle Harris now recovered from an eating disorder. She is a medical student

Annabelle believes most of the government investment should be placed into early intervention training and programmes. "One thing that would be good, would be more education in schools so you have more accurate viewpoint about them.

"GPs could also be better trained in spotting the signs early on."

Annabelle was diagnosed with the brittle bone condition osteoporosis five years ago but feels her outlook has greatly improved.

"I am 95% recovered and I've been stable for five years but part of me will always have slight obsessions around food.

"I have to be careful about triggers, things going on in life that upset me, times when I'm stressed.

"Things I read in magazines and saw on television would have setback my recovery a few years back but they don't impact me as much now."

Read about eating disorders here: Anorexia, Bulimia