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HealthInfo Canterbury

Getting help with an eating disorder

Many people with eating disorders feel embarrassed, ashamed or guilty. They have often tried, unsuccessfully, to treat their disorder so believe nothing will work. This can stop them from getting help.

Eating disorders are treatable, but the longer someone has an eating disorder (particularly anorexia), the more ingrained their thinking and behaviour becomes, so it's best to get treatment as early as possible. Specialist treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy, is essential.

Talking to your GP or practice nurse is a good first step.

Specialist eating disorder services

Canterbury DHB South Island Eating Disorders Service (SIEDS)

This team includes a psychiatrist, physician, dietitian, occupational therapist, psychologist, psychiatric nurse, physiotherapist and social worker. It's a free service that mostly works with people as outpatients, meaning they don't stay in hospital. It also provides inpatient (hospital) care when appropriate.

When treating young people, SIEDS often uses treatment based on the Maudsley Family-Based Treatment approach. You can find more information, including a video, and support for parents, on the Maudsley Parents website. For adults, SIEDS works out which approach is best for each individual and their family.

They also offer a binge eating disorder group which involves a course of weekly meetings using cognitive behaviour techniques. The aim is to understand and change the triggers that lead to binge eating, including beliefs about food and eating, body weight and shape.

You will need to see your GP to be referred to SIEDS for assessment.

St John of God Waipuna Eating Awareness Team

The St John of God Waipuna Eating Awareness Team (EAT) provides a free service to help people manage eating issues. You can refer yourself, though it's recommended that you see a GP or a dietitian first to support your referral. It includes several services.

To contact EAT, phone (03) 386‑2159, or email them.

Counsellors and therapists

Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy with a trained counsellor or psychologist can help with eating disorders, anxiety and depression.

You can find counsellors, therapists, and psychiatrists in the Family Services Directory, or the Mental Health Education and Resource Centre (MHERC) can help. Some therapy options will cost, but your GP can talk through the approximate cost with you.

On the next page: Supporting someone with an eating disorder

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed January 2021.

Page reference: 75494

Review key: HIEDI-73561