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They Said What?! :: Articles :: Medic Alert
They Said What?!

If you are a doctor or therapist understand that this section is not meant to offend you. It's just another perspective to look at and something to think about.

Below are some things doctors and therapist have said to patients. If you suffer with an Eating Disorder and feel that a doctor or therapist ever treats you badly, or invalidates your feelings and/or illness, ask for a referral to someone better trained or just find a new one yourself!

Uncomfortable Things Some Doctors Have Said

The following are direct quotes -- they are inaccurate, have made sufferers feel worthless, and don't consider the seriousness of having an Eating Disorder.

I was very ill-severly anemic due to my ED. I had put off going to the hospital for a week, and finally agreed to be admitted. The doctor on-call told me that I SHOULD have a transfusion, but that I did not DESERVE one, because I caused my own problem, by having an eating disorder, and that when people donate blood, they do not expect it to go to somebody like me.

I was a patient at an eating disorder hospital and one of thee nurses was completely intolerable. She said, "Your a guy, guys don't get eating disorders. Why don't you just go home and work out after you eat and save this program for the girls that really need it." Of course at the time I was very underweight and purging many times a day.

I went for a tilt table test yesterday and the nurse in the cardiology lab said to me, after writing down that I have anorexia, and heart arrythmia's etc... "I'll bet you didn't gain 20 lbs after you got married, did you? You really know how to control your weight!" What a stupid thing for a person in the health professions to say to a person with anorexia!

Going to the hospital after my seventh overdose I told the staff nurse I was bulimic and she said: "So what? An eating disorder. I've had one of those... This is all your choice. Some people have real problems." I have never felt so 'fake'!

I finally went to my primary care physician after being anorexic for over 12 years and asked him to help me. He laughed and said "you know I've never seen anyone your age (27) with anorexia... whats the matter? Didnt you get asked to the prom?" I was totally humiliated and angry yet I just smiled coyly and said "Why? Are you going to ask me?" I refused to ever see him again.

After 10 years of suffering from severe bulimia I decided to 'come clean' to my doctor about purging after eating anything. He said "Oh 10% of females do that - that's nothing to worry about". As you can imagine this did not enforce any respect for him on my part.

My parents were told that since my sister would eat a piece of bread with peanut butter on it (once a day), she could not possibly be anorexic because peanut butter was "too fattening."

When I was a child, six years old, my pediatrician would monitor my weight. He sat me down and gave me what felt like a "talking to" about my controlling my food intake. I felt absolutely humiliated. He told me, in a very stern and firm tone of voice and with thunder in his eyes, to simply not eat so much. I couldn't control my eating! I remember staring at my bare thighs as he was speaking severely to me, and thinking myself horribly fat. I also didn't know how I was supposed to do this all on my own as my eating patterns now seemed inextricably tied to my relationship with my mother. As I look back at photographs of me at that age, I was beautifully healthy, not the overweight horror I thought I was. The problem was much more complex than telling a six-year-old to "control her eating". I did have a compulsive overeating disorder, in that I was comforting myself through unbearable pain by eating, although at that age I couldn't have been more than a little bit overweight, if that. I dreaded pediatrician appointments and the most I got out of the experience was learning to be afraid.

I was checking into a psych. hospital after 18 years of bulimia. I mentioned my fear that I might get osteoporosis to the nurse who was interviewing me. She responded by saying, "Oh, just drink some milk".

During my last unsuccessful admission in hospital, my doctor got mad when I told him that I didn't feel like I was really getting any help from him. He said "My job is to medicate you, nothing else."

A doctor who I'd been seeing for 3 months told me I was profoundly depressed, the most depressed person she'd seen in a long time, and that I had very low self-esteem. Later in the same conversation she told me that I needed to do something about my appearance (my roots needed touching up, my fringe was getting overgrown and she accused me wearing the same fleece the last two times I'd seen her) and that no other doctor would have tolerated me as a patient for this long.

I was in the hospital for anorexia and was freezing. I was wearing 3 layers of clothes to try to keep warm. My blood pressure was dangerously low and my nurse told me to walk laps up and down the hall to warm up. I had not eaten anything that day and I ended up passing out.

I told an inexperienced Eating Disorders therapist of the pain I'd been living through, my years of hidden eating, the dozens of unsuccessful diets. I said I knew, finally, that the problem wouldn't go away even when the weight did. I was a puddle of tears. She replied: "Would you like me to arrange for you to get your stomach stapled?"

I went to a doc I had never seen before because he was the only one who could fit me in to his schedule. He walked in and asked me what my problem was. I told him I had an eating disorder. He said, "No you don't...you're not that skinny and your teeth are not yellow". I apologized for not being half dead on his floor. I never felt so unworthy in all of my life.

To my mother as the doctor looked me over -- he looked in my mouth (no flashlight, no x-rays, no bloodtests) and said "Well she obviously hasnt done too much damage."

Not long after a relapse of bulimia I contacted an online internet Doctor (Dr George) and explained how out of control I felt and that my diet was severely restricted and I was vomiting. He explained that there are actually medications that I could take to help me lose weight (duh!) and to make an appointment with my GP so I could get some prescribed!

I am now completely recovered but recently was experiencing some chest pains. Due to my history of Anorexia I called the doctor on-call to ask him if I should go to the Emergency Room. I explained to him about the pain in my chest and told him of my history saying "you should know I've had a history of Anorexia Nervosa." He replied after a long pause, "Yeah, but that has nothing to do with your chest."

I went to this woman-therapist at least five times and she could never remember my name. Every time before I would leave her office she would ask me "to just go and eat a candy bar".

"Will it help if I tell you that you don't look good? I know that how you look is very important to you people." Will doctors ever realize that anorexia is NOT about wanting to look pretty?

I was really sick and my mom took me to the doctor and told him she was worried that I was loosing to much weight and that I didn't eat. He pinched my side and told her not to worry because I still had enough meat on me.

I often end up in ER because of my electrolytes. One time I passed out at work and an ambulance was called. When I was in the ER I told the doctor I had anorexia and that's why I had passed out. He said "how long have you had anorexia for? Just a couple of days?". He thought I was using the word anorexia in its literal/technical sense -- loss of appetite. I quickly asked him "why, is it going around?."

I went to the doctor because I was getting really sick and was extremely underweight... I could hardly stand up. He looked me over and said "Well it won't kill you if you skip a few meals".

I was finally trying to get psychiatric help, and after a short interview with the "shrink" he told me that he didn't think I would recover, and it would probably kill me. I left there balling worse off than before.

During an inappropriate "pep" talk from a nurse she told me that when she was younger she had an eating disorder, but weighed much less than i did then.

Upon first hospitalization including an I.V. "I don't see what all the fuss is about, you're not very thin."

After I lost a substantial amount of weight during a relapse, my insurance company informed me that they wouldn't pay for my doctor's visits because "weight loss isn't a medical problem."

After taking ny pulse at my first evaluation, the doctor said, "Wow! I know some runners that would DIE to have such a low heart rate..."

Said by a university therapist - "you don't do anything disgusting like this..." before proceding with a list that horrified me by making me think is everyone going to think I do all of these things?

In appearing on a television show I was featured along with several other women and one of the leading eating disorder doctors in the country. After the show was taped and we all were walking out, the doctor came up to me and said, "You are obviously doing quite well now, but you'll relapse. Here's my card. Call me when you do." It's hard enough to have confidence in my own well-being without "leading" doctors telling me I can never be well!

I started-out being a compulsive over-eater when I first sought help. The practitioner was such a cruel person. I hadn't lost the amount of weight(according to the scale),I actually lost inches! She yelled-out at me in front of all of her staff and other patients and said, "I give-up, I don't know what else to do for you if your not willing to have the will-power to stick to a simple diet! If you want to stay fat and lazy all your life, that's up to you!! I WAS MORTIFIED! I tried killing myself a few times after that and than I discovered anorexia and bulimia. I ended up working for her after I had lost a whole bunch of weight. She didn't remember me, when I reminded her who I was, she tried perading me around the office like her personal success story. After I witnessed her abusing another patient with a weight problem, I sat her down in her office and explained to her what she did to me and what I did to myself. We both cried. She is probably okay now, Im still very ill 19 yrs later.

I went to see my former doctor because my mom had expressed concern about me not eating. He pinched my side and told my mother that there was still enough fat on me and not to worry. My WORST fear was being realized right there. And I believed every word.

"You don't have an eating disorder, you aren't under weight, and i think you just have a control problem." At this point I was throwing up 3-5 times a day, but no I didn't have an eating disorder, I had a control problem.

When informing my family doctor that my eating disorder doctor felt that I needed to be admitted for treatment for my bulimia, my family doctor stated "that's a little dramatic isn't it?"

I went to a psychiatrist a couple years ago. I told her that I had an eating disorder and had been to a treatment center a couple years earlier. Her response was "why aren't you skinner?"

The doctors at a hospital decided to immediately give me an IV and a naso-gastric tube system. The tubes hurt a lot going down my throat, so I asked a doctor, who's first impression was already very pompous, arrogant and mean, if I could have something to ease the pain in my throat. His reply? "How about some ice cream. Oh, wait, you can't - you're in this situation because you CANT eat ice cream". He nudged his coworkers and they started laughing. This totally ruined all confidence and hope I had, and led to my recent AMA sign-out from this hospital.

I have had bulimia for 15 years and had told this to the doctor I seen at an ER, I had gone for dehydration, he went over my chart and seen the date of my last period. He then told me that I was not bulimic as I have regular periods. I wish he had given me an explanation as to I needed to have three IV bags and what had caused the dehydration

Quotes from Doctors in the U.S. Military: "Bulimia is just an attention device" and "Bulimia is not a serious eating disorder"

"You're such a beautiful, smart girl - too smart to have such a stupid problem! Why don't you just eat and get on with your life?" Said by a hospital employee doing an intake for admission.

My Psychiatrist has said 2 things that were pretty sarcastic lately and made me want to quit seeing him and find someone else, but I've been told he is the 'leading specialist on eating disorders' in my state! one thing he said was: "So it looks like they didn't feed you at the camp!", Then just yesterday he said "whats the matter, can't you find the pantry at your house?", I said "What? what do you mean?" He said, "well, you look much thinner than last time I saw you, can't you find the pantry at your house? you know, where you keep the food!" What a jerk!!

"You could eat a cow and not gain weight!" This was shortly before she wrote me a letter telling me she wouldn't see me anymore because I refused to gain weight.

It took all i had to make that appointment and finally ask for help! He looked at me and said, "You are a nurse. You should know better."

I've had a psychiatrist and a therapist both tell me that my eating disorder was a severe sin, and if I didn't just stop it and start being obedient to God immediately, I was going to go to hell. This counselor made me feel so guilty and worthless that my eating disorder got considerably worse.

said by a person answering the phone at an Eating Disorders clinic: "aren't you a little old to have this disorder"

My daughter was put into a locked ward and was the only ed there. They made her sleep on the floor on a mattress. She was crying and asked for a hug from one of the nurses because she felt so unloved. She was told by the nurse that if she didn't stop crying everyone would think she was psycho and they were not there to love her but to save her life. She was devestated and felt so alone, unloved and worthless.

"You don't fit the profile of an anorexic: you're not angry enough."

I am a severely emaciated anorexic... very far below a normal healthy weight. I've been in and out of hospitals, and in one hospital, I was hooked up to tubes and IVs, my blood pressure and pulse were low, and my potassium was at a dangerous level. An intern came up to me, asked about my anorexia history, and then said, without thinking "you must be the worst anorexic I've ever seen..you're like a skeleton, you're so lucky to maintain such a low weight!". I signed myself out AMA.

A few months ago, my boyfriend and best friend finally convinced me to see a psychologist at our college. I was scared to death, but I did it. When I went, I told the psychologist that I thought I was anorexic. She proceeded to tell me that 80-90% of all American women worried about their weight, and that I didn't really look sick or unhealthy, so I really shouldn't be too concerned. Her suggestion was to try to eat three meals a day. She suggested a health food store I might like to try since I seemed to be concerned about my weight, and she gave me a book about eating disorders to read over - obviously she'd never read it... it dealt mainly obsessive overeating disorders. To top it all off, I told her I was concerned about confidentiality, as far as my parents finding out, since I was only 17 at the time. She said that she was only obligated to inform parents if I was doing anything dangerous to my health or well-being, and I didn't seem to be. Obviously she didn't realize I was eating a few crackers a day at that time.

Upon returning to the hospital after only two weeks (several pounds lighter) I went to my intake with my doctor. This was the first time that I had signed myself in. When I stepped on the scale he wrote down the number, had me get off, and then re-weighed me. After recording the number he turned to me and said "You really screwed up this time, didn't you." I'll never forget those words. I have never felt like such a failure.

This is one from my group leader of the eating disorder group I used to go to. She told me that her doctor said her bulimia was a result of PMS!

I went to my doctor to get some blood work done. I had been fainting and having very bad leg cramps. After drawing the blood, he says, "You aren't (*unrealistically low weight here*) pounds or anything, so you aren't anorexic, don't worry about it!" I walked out of his office in tears.

A psychiatrist told me that I should get a job, and that would solve all my problems.

My pediatrician told me, when my mother timidly told him that I had been diagnosed with an eating disorder by a psychologist, and totally ignoring that I had lost about too much weight since the last time I had been in there, told my mother that I was just fine, and that if I really had an eating disorder, I would weigh way less.

Upon telling my psychiatrist when I started an outpatient program that I was bingeing, restricting, using laxatives, abusing caffeine and diuretics, and so depressed I couldn't get out of bed in the morning, she said, "You're a smart girl. Why don't you just stop doing this and get on with your life?"

I was told by a nurse (on an eating disorders unit) that my ideal weight was something much less than normal. By a psychiatrist, i was told that I wouldn't be comfortable on the eating disorders ward, because those girls are always underweight. By a doctor on an eating disorders program, said, "Don't worry we won't let you go above a certain weight, our goal isn't to turn out blimps here". And my personal favorite, despite having starved myself for three months, having gone 10 days without food and three without water, having lost my period, I was told by a doctor that I was not thin enough to be anorexic.

I was in the hospital for treatment of 'severe bulimia' and had to have all those medicaltests done on me. When it came time for blood to be drawn, I opted for it to be in my room instead of the nurse's station because I cry when I get poked with needles and I didn't want to humiliate myself. This huge, unsympathetic phlebotomist waddles into my room and sits me down at my desk in there. He tied the elastic so tightly that my fingers were blue from my knuckles all the way to my nails and then he jammed a butterfly needle into my vein. I'm okay ith big needles, but the longer a needle is in me the worse I feel. After the firstof three tubes I had started crying, and he just looked at me and rolled his eyes at me. After the second I was crying AND hyperventilating, and he said to me, "Loook- be a BIG GIRL, okay? Don't be such a baby." By time the third tube was being filled I was sliding out of my chair and halfway to the floor, too weak to cry or even to hyperventilate, and then he removed the needle, looked me in the eyes and said, "Don't ever have children. You'd never be able to handle the pain." He got up and walked away and I fell onto my roommate's bed and passed out.

When I first came out in the open about my eating disorder, it was to a teacher at my school and she helped tell my parents to get me to the doctor's and into therapy as soon as possible. I was 4'8", at 16 years old... Obviously my height wasn't normal though my weight was. I went to the doctor and before saying anything else to me or before listening to what I had to say she said, "I don't see how you can be anorexic, you gained weight since last year!!!"

My mother and I both went for check-ups. At the time I was extremely underweight, hadn't menstruated for a year, and was pretty much at the brink of death. I stood at the counter as the nurse chatted with my mother on the latest gossip and filled her prescription of antibiotics. Only just as we were walking out the door, she said, "And you...need to eat more." I kept losing weight, kept going back to the same office, but that was the last "advice" I was given. So, I guess it was more about what she didn't say. The doctor was worse. When my mother asked if I could have a problem with my weight, he shrugged, "Nahh...she could lose a few more pounds."

During the Easter season I was having some family difficulties, along with withdrawal symptoms from some pain medication I had been taking. I was very stressed and jittery and decided to binge on my daughter's entire Easter basket of goodies. Now feeling stressed, jittery, AND nauseated from my binge, I telephone my physician's office to ask for help. Upon explaining to the nurse the reason for my call, she giggled, said, "Oh my God, you ate a WHOLE Easter basket of candy?" After conferring with the doctor, she came back to the phone and informed me that the doctor would be calling in a new pain medication to the pharmacy and jokingly informed me that while at the pharmacy I should pick up a new Easter basket for my little girl. I had never felt so misunderstood and humiliated. As any COE knows, it takes alot of courage to even admit there is a problem, let alone discuss it. I had opened up thinking I would get help, but instead, was not taken the least bit seriously.

I fantasized one day about my life without an eating disorder . So , I went to my therapist begging her for help. She is one of the rare persons that I trust. "Please work with me on that. I don't want to see a dietician because I know all the numbers that she's going to give me. Work with me on that. I know that I can do it. When I set my mind to something, I do it. I WILL do it." She answered me: "Well, I'm sorry but I don't buy that". I had gone to her with an eating disorder and a strong (maybe too strong?) determination, I left my determination in her office, and walked out alone with my eating disorder.

Overheard: "Anyone who can still excersize like she does can't have an eating disorder!"

I was in the hospital, fearfully nibbling at my assigned meal, practically crying because I just KNEW I was gaining weight, when the nurse who was assigned to sit with me asked me how much weight I had lost. When I told her, she responded "God, I wish I could loose that! You're so attractive too!"

Arrangements were made for me to go see a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders. The hope was that she might be able to make some additional recommendations in my treatment plan. First she was 2 hours late for my appointment, and no one said she would be late. In fact they said it would only be a few minutes. She did not even discuss my anorexia, except to weigh me. Her summary of what was "wrong" with me was this: "You have just gotten into the 'sick role'. You need to stop focusing on your eating disorder, quit seeing your nutritionist so often (every week) and focus on other achievable goals." She then proceeded to tell me that based on my history (of severe child abuse) that I shouldn't expect too much of myself or out of life.

I was being evaulated by an MD and he said "Oh, bulimic are we? Wanna share a bag of candy bars?" Then he proceeded to berate me up one side and down the other telling me that I will never get better and how much of a fuck up -- yes he DID use that term I was. It makes me think that nobody in the psychiatric business cares about anything but their checkbooks.

When I finally got up the courage to mention my eating disorder to my doctor I was terrified. My husband didn't believe me and said he'd only believe an MD and not my therapist, who did diagnose Anorexia. I said, "I think I have an Eating Disorder." and his reply was "You're not fat!" What?! That was the end of the conversation.

I had been having stomach problems and have battled with an ED to some degree since I was a young child (unfortunately, at present I am still very much in the battle). When I described my digestive problem to the doctor at the University clinic, he responded, 'You're not one of those anorexic or bulimic wackos are you? No? I'm glad you aren't one of those nuts.' Of course I couldn't respond that that was some of the problem to someone as clearly unsympathetic as this.

When I started to trust my counsellor and open up to her , one day I walked into her office seeking - I mean really seeking, I would also say desperately begging for - her help. She looked at me , frowned and ferociously came out with these 'biblical words': "you want to have practical help? Is that what you're asking me for? Well, then start having three meals a day!" She didn't understand that that was the goal not the source.

When I was 14 and went to my first psychiatrist (10 years ago), he and my mother offered me money to eat....ten cents per meal

My doctor said that I was just going through a 'phase' and told me that this is normal of all young adults. At this point I was underweight and had been sick for over five years.

As the office nurse got my weight, she says "Oh, is that all?" I had put on some weight since my last visit and was very upset about it. She didn't even know why I was at the doctor's office in the first place. How sad that she doesn't realize how insensitive her comment was and how determined it makes me to lose more weight.

"Ma'am, if your daughter still eats candy bars, she cannot possible suffer from Anorexia."

I mentioned to a Doctor on campus that I was having to take laxatives on a regular basis. He never asked to what extent. He told me to eat fruit more often. At this point, I was taking a box of laxatives a day.

I came from a small town where the doctors, to be blunt, were clueless. I might as well have stood before my doctor with a sign on my forehead that said "I need help" and he would not have seen it.

What would have helped me get better? A change in my doctor's attitude. Instead of telling me how gross I looked, and that I could die, and generally trying to get myself to hate myself enough that I'd want to change, he should have said things like, 'You have a lot of positivie qualities to share with the world. If you continue down this path, you won't be able to achieve all of the hopes, goals and dreams that you have for yourself.' That, along with referring me for psychological help earlier than 5 months into my bout with anorexia, would have helped a lot.

"Your [12-year-old] daughter is just going through a phase, you'd be surprised how long a kid that age can survive on purely liquids. I wouldn't worry."

a 26-year-old woman, extremely underweight, abnormally low blood pressure, being weighed at the office by a nurse, who says: "I don't know HOW you stay so thin... you're one of the lucky ones I guess!"

When I tried to tell my doctor that I thought maybe I could use some therapy for Compulsive Eating he just shrugged and wrote me a prescription for phen-fen. Luckily, I never took it.

I went to the emergency room one night for rectal bleeding... told them I had a history of Anorexia and was in recovery. When I finally saw a doctor I told her the same thing. She asked, "are you constipated" and I told her I was not. I was given a prescription for laxatives and sent on my way.

When I was 'bad' my therapist refused to talk to me. She would make me sit in the waiting room for an hour until our 'session' was over."

"Little missy, you just have to eat something."

"Just focus on gaining weight."

"How on earth do you know so much about eating healthy foods? I wish I could have the discipline you have!" (this was from a home health care worker who was staying with a patient to make sure she was medically stable while her parents were out of the country).

"Ohhhh, you're the one that's not so fond of food."

"Haven't you outgrown this yet?"

"You look like you weigh about XXX. I weigh XXX+10 - do I look fat?!" from a female doctor to a patient weighing far less than she guessed.

Overheard by patient (door left open) -- nurse talking to psychiatrist and his reply in referrence to treating the patient: "I can't be bothered with her, I have more important things to do and patients who need me much more. Please turn her away."

from a therapist: "well, it makes no difference to me whether you get better or not. I get paid either way."

"You can starve yourself, and binge and purge as much as you want as long as you take vitamins and don't hit your head when you pass out. You'll grow out of this stage eventually."

"Your eating behavior is.... well, how can I describe it.... PATHOLOGICAL!"

I was desperately trying to recover from anorexia and I told this to the nurse at my doctor's office and begged her not to tell me my weight and I insisted that I stand backwards on the scale. She did not tell me my weight but smugly told it to the doctor who was right beside me!

from an Ask-A-Nurse helpline operator: "Oh! That is your height and weight? WELL, I worked with a girl who weighed only (*insert abnormally low weight here*) pounds and one day we managed to get her to eat 1/2 a doughnut and then she disappeared. We found her running laps around a track to try and burn off the calories. Now SHE was anorexic. You don't sound bad at all, you are just a little underweight. I wouldn't worry about it."

My doctor once told me, Why are you coming in here? You're healthy!"... I was very underweight and had told him I had anorexia.

I went to the doctor to see the extent of the damage I was doing on my body, a first step in admiting I had a problem. He drew blood and then proceeded to tell me my cholesterol was too high and I should "eat less fat and exercise more regularly.' I had just explained that I was eating 2 fat grams a day, puking up those, and compulsively exercising.

The doctor told my mother... "She hasn't done it (thrown up) in two weeks, I don't think she'll do it again." Later that day I threw up and have never stopped.

Once a Doctor came into my Hospital Bedroom, where I was connected to every tube you can imagine, was extremely underweight, and my blood pressure was very low... the only comment he had was, "Why don't you eat a steak, and get out of here... after all we have better things to do." After that I signed out of the Hospital AMA. This was a Doctor that had published a Book about anorexia/bulimia. I guess he missed the course in common courtesy.

I had been seeing my therapist for about a year to get help with my depression. Six months ago I started telling her about my eating disorder, and it has gotten to the point where all I talk about for an hour and fifteen minutes is my ed and how severe it has gotten. Today my therapist looked me straight in the eye and said, "Lauri, I think you might have a little problem with food."

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