Talking to my doctor - Eating Disorders Victoria
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Talking to my doctor

Home ~ My recovery journey ~ Talking to my doctor

The page outlines what is involved when speaking to your doctor. It involves how to prepare for a consultation, what to expect from a consultation and what to do if you are not satisfied with the outcome.

Why is it important to see a GP?

If you are concerned that you or someone you care about is experiencing an eating disorder, it is important to make an appointment with a health professional as soon as possible. Early intervention is the most effective action for long-term recovery.

The first health professional you will likely see is a General Practitioner (GP). A GP will be able to provide an initial assessment and may provide you with a diagnosis regarding the type of eating disorder.

Although a dietitian, psychologist or psychiatrist can also provide a diagnosis, it is recommended you visit a GP as they can provide you with options and referrals for further treatment.

Choosing which GP to see

Selecting the appropriate GP for your appointment is essential. You may feel comfortable seeing your family GP in the first instance. However, it is advisable to find a GP who is experienced in treating eating disorders.

Many people are surprised to find that not all GPs are skilled in identifying and treating eating disorders. We hear from too many people who have had their concerns minimized or dismissed when they have seen a doctor.

Do your research before making an appointment. Alternatively, EDV’s Helpline team can do the research for you and provide a list of GPs in your local area who are suitable.

Planning your appointment

Once you have found a suitable GP, the next step is planning your appointment. It is advisable to book a double appointment for your first consultation to ensure there is adequate time to cover the assessment and referral process.

When you’ve made an appointment, it’s a good idea to start getting prepared for your appointment so you don’t feel put on the spot. It might be helpful to write down any symptoms or behaviours you’ve been experiencing, as well as any questions you might want to ask the doctor.

A useful tool in preparing to see the doctor this is the Feed Your Instinct Eating and Body Image Checklist. The FYI Checklist outlines some behaviour changes you may have noticed in yourself or a loved one. Once the checklist is completed, the website will generate a personalized report with a summary of the information you have provided that you can take with you to the GP.

How EDV can help

The EDV Hub can help you find a GP with experience treating eating disorders in your local area.

Call, chat or email

What to expect from your GP consultation

Going to the doctor for concerns around an eating disorder can feel like a big step. Understanding what is likely to happen at your appointment can help ease your anxiety.

Talking to your doctor

It’s important to speak as openly and honestly about your symptoms and concerns as possible. Your doctor may ask you a range of questions to help inform their assessment. You may feel more comfortable bringing a loved one or friend with you to help support you or explain things. As mentioned previously, it might be a good idea to take a pre-written document with you so that you don’t forget things in the moment.

Physical check-up

The doctor will need to do a physical check-up to assess the stability of your medical health. This may also involve taking some blood for testing. If you are weighed, it’s important to know that you do not have to see the number on the scales – you can ask to face the other way or not be told the number.

It’s also important to note that the GP should not focus exclusively on physical measures to determine if you are experiencing an eating disorder. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have large variations in physical presentations.

Diagnosis and referrals

The GP may be able to make a diagnosis for you during the appointment. If they are unable to make a diagnosis on the spot, they may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, for a more detailed assessment. If your condition requires urgent medical action, you may be referred to a hospital or inpatient treatment facility.

If the GP has made a diagnosis, they will then discuss the treatment options available to you. This should include a referral to the most suitable services based on your psychological and/or physical condition.

Even though you will likely be referred to other services for ongoing treatment, your relationship with your GP shouldn’t end there. Often, a GP will remain an integral part of your treatment team, which is why it is so important you find a GP that works for you. There are many different treatment pathways, and you may need several attempts to find the one that works for you.

Did you know?

As of November 2019, individuals diagnosed with severe and complex eating disorders will be eligible for up to 40 subsidised psychological sessions and 20 subsidised dietetic sessions under new Medicare item numbers for eating disorders.

Getting a second opinion

Unfortunately, not everyone has a good experience when seeking help for an eating disorder. If your doctor does not diagnose an eating disorder but you are still concerned about warning signs and symptoms, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion.

This may be another GP, or a mental health professional such a psychologist. For help finding a health professional with experience treating eating disorders, please contact the EVD Hub.

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