Issue 13 - The specialist viewpoint

Issue 13 - The specialist viewpoint

WORDS @lesleyappswriter |   @georgiemcavanagh

An extract from our Issue 13 front cover story, Flight and Fight - Emily Sutherland living regionally with an eating disorder.

Dr Geoff Buckett is a psychiatrist specialising in eating disorders at the Ramsay Clinic in Sydney.

The former GP believes more needs to be done regionally to diagnose anorexia nervosa early and offer effective forms of treatment.

"Schools, regional hospitals, and often GPs, will tend to underestimate the problem and consider it a behavioural disturbance. It won't be taken seriously enough, early enough. They won't realise it needs both restoring nutrition or physical rescue, as well as a psychological engagement," says Dr Buckett.

"We have to keep reminding ourselves that anorexia is a mental condition that has a physical reflection."

Dr Buckett said quite often it was a case of once people start seeing the patient "eat a bit better, they think it's all over".

"The disorder remains latent so they will remain at risk. They actually need more attention once they start to look healthier. That's the point where families, doctors and hospitals often draw back and say, 'Well, I thought you were over that' but it is an ongoing problem."

He said more resources were needed regionally in accessible environments like hub-and spoke models.

"Anorexia is such a non-intuitive condition that you can't just apply ordinary logic to it.

"It's a mistake to think you can bribe people with anorexia - 'Can't you do this for your mother or do this to be bridesmaid at your sister's wedding?'. All they do is feel guilty because they can't, but everyone imagines if the stakes get high enough there will be permission.

"These are mental disorders. they're not just behavioural (patterns) by silly little girls who get upset by something and go on a rampage to try and deal with it.

"Anorexia nervosa still kills 20 per cent of people who have it. So it is the most lethal of psychiatric conditions. It's been around since the 1860s at least, and it's hard to get better and it is dangerous. Even if you survive, the damage on families and individuals can be ongoing."

Dr Buckett said regional GPs need support and assistance as they were often the first pass people.

"You have to know what you are looking for and be able to engage with patients because in many ways they are aligned to their disorder, which is an unusual event in itself in a medical environment.

"Patients can often be seen as ungrateful. GPs need a pathway to send patients and families down which includes specialist care."


You can read Emily's incredible, courageous story in our latest print issue of OAK. 


Butterfly Foundation - 1800 334 673

Lifeline - 13 11 13 |

KidsHelpline - 1800 551 800 |

ReachOut -

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.