The London Centre still operational during COVID-19

These are of course unprecedented times, and the health of the nation is at the forefront of almost everyone’s thoughts.  Sadly however, pre-existing and new health concerns continue to exist to the same, if not potentially a greater, extent during a time of global pandemic.  Eating disorders will not disappear, and it will remain imperative to seek support when it is required.  In fact at a time when mental health is widely recognised to be at severe risk, eating disorders could be exacerbated.

The London Centre, though not currently able to offer face-to-face appointments, is still offering sessions via telephone, Skype or Zoom. Treatment can easily be adapted to work really well remotely and we see it as important now more than ever, that people who have concerns over their eating or mental health seek specialist support.

We are taking on new referrals so please do contact our Team PA Kerry to arrange an initial assessment appointment on Kerry@thelondoncentre.co.uk

Eating disorders and COVID-19

Announcing the new Richmond-Upon-Thames Eating Disorder Clinic

The London Centre for Eating Disorders and Body Image are very proud to announce the upcoming opening of their new Richmond Upon Thames Clinic, due to open in January 2019. The clinic will be just a 2-minute walk from Richmond station, which can be reached by bus, train or tube.

The Richmond Clinic will run alongside our central London clinic in Margaret Street (a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus) and will offer daytime and evening outpatient treatment for those struggling with eating and/or body image issues. As in our central London clinic specialist therapy and treatment will be provided by highly experienced clinical and counselling psychologists.

The Richmond Clinic will offer a range of highly specialised therapy options, with clinicians trained in a wide range of treatment types including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Schema Therapy, Specialist Supportive Psychotherapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Mentalisation Based Therapy, Cognitive Analytical Therapy and Family Based Treatment. Alongside this is access to specialist Dietetics and Occupational Therapy as well as our information and support groups for relatives and friends. At the London Centre for Eating Disorders we believe in integrating evidence based therapy (what we know works) with individual needs and preference (what works for the individual).

Dr Bryony Bamford, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director of The London Centre says, “We are all very excited about the new clinic and look forward to working very hard to make this successful by providing the best care we can to our clients and all those who refer to, or use, our services. We will also continue to build relationships within the local community and we are looking forward to this new venture. We know that whilst eating disorders can have a devastating impact for individuals and their families, recovery is possible with the right support and treatment. At The London Centre we offer a warm and caring environment coupled with highly specialist treatment, guidance and advice to help people along the journey to recovery. We believe it is this blend that makes our treatment approaches so successful”.

Eating Disorder Treatment, Richmond Surrey

Eating Disorder Treatment in Richmond-upon Thames


Social media and body image – What impact is it really having?


Social media is now a hugely popular and pervasive tool among all age groups.  Facebook currently has over 1.3billion users worldwide, and instagram over 300 million.  Of these users around half are female and under the age of 25.  But what impact might this new obsession be having on its users?  There has been a lot of talk about the impact of social media on mood, body satisfaction and life satisfaction, but now for the first time there is some evidence as to the potential detrimental effects of what has become a new norm.

A number of correlational studies have previously made links between increased social media use and body image dissatisfaction, low mood, and a number of other psychological conditions.  These correlations have been found across various age groups from pre teenage to university age.  (see. Fardouly et al., 2015 for a summary).  What we dont know from correlational studies however is whether it is social media resulting in increased psychological distress, or whether increased psychological distress makes people turn more readily to social media.

For the first time researchers at The University of the West of England have shown that it is an individuals tendency to compare themselves to others that is likely to determine whether social media use has a positive or negative impact.   The tendency to compare yourself to others is known as social comparison.  Individuals can socially compare themselves to others on a number of dimensions including status, appearance, satisfaction and life experience. With 70 million photographs posted instagram every day, and over 10 million photographs added to Facebook per hour, there is a lot of material to which social media users can socially compare themselves.

Jasmine Fardouly and colleagues, in a paper published in Body Image, 2015, investigated the link between rates of social comparison, social media use and appearance related concerns.  They found that the impact of social media is not universal amongst all users.  Only those who have a tendency to compare themselves to others are likely to suffer from lower mood or poorer body image after viewing social media images. What this means is that, much as with magazine media images, social media cannot necessarily be tarnished with a universally negative brush.  For some individuals though, the impact of constant social media viewing is likely to be contributing to, or at least maintaining, psychological distress or dissatisfaction.

Dr. Bryony Bamford, of The London Centre says “The problem with social media is that it presents a very skewed version of real life – photos can be added with filters, experiences can be embellished, and life can be presented through a rose tinted lens.  What that means for individuals who have a tendency to compare themselves to others, is that they are likely to be comparing themselves to a skewed reality of real life’.



The myth of the ‘perfect’ body


With Christmas over, and many people experiencing a lingering anxiety over  festive over-indulgence, now is the perfect time for us to be bombarded with messages about detoxing, new year exercise resolutions, fad diet tips and promises of achieving a ‘new year – new you’.  But are your New Year resolutions helpful or harmful?  And are the promises made by the many diets on ‘sale’ realistic?

There are hundreds of different diet options open to us – a quick search of google is all it takes to realise how many different diets are presented to us each year.  And each year there seems to be a different one.  Does anyone ever ask why?  Perhaps because there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ diet.  Recently, a number of different articles have been published questioning the rigidity of many of the more popular diets.  Is it really healthy to completely cut out fats, or carbs, or solid food.  In short no – our bodies need a full balanced diet in order to be healthy, and cutting out foods only tend to make us crave them more.  Is it really possible to detox our bodies?  In short no – if there were really toxins that stayed in our digestive system for any period of time they would probably kill us, or at least make us very ill.  Is it really possible to achieve a ‘model’ body by attending a gym class – in short no.   Models have genetics, lighting, photography skills and photo shop on their side.

Eating disorder psychologists talk about the idea of ‘set point theory’ – the idea that we are genetically programmed to be a certain weight and shape.  Sure we can tweak it, but can we drastically alter it – not if we want to be healthy, and have a good quality of life.

So why are we presented with so may promises?  Well, in short because it makes money – In the US 6billion dollars are spent every year on the diet and beauty industry, and this sum is only increasing.

This isn’t meant to imply that new goals can’t be set – by all means, turn over that new leaf and set yourself goals, but make sure these goals are healthy, achievable and realistic for you and your life style.  Body image distress is a huge problem in the UK, and the unrealistic expectations that we are bombarded with every day only serve to increase our dissatisfaction and self criticism.  Focus on the behaviour you want to achieve, rather than the body, and your 2015 resolution are much more likely to last into February.



Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Do you know the facts?

OCD image

Most people have probably heard the of term ‘OCD’ and know that it stands for ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’.  But few people actually know what OCD is and even fewer recognise how debilitating it can really be.  In this weeks blog we look at the signs and symptoms of OCD and  explore how it can be linked to disordered eating.

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

OCD has two characteristic elements:

1. obsessions (undesirable, recurrent, intrusive, distressing thoughts and worries)

2. compulsions (repetitive or ritualized physical or mental behaviors).

Most people with OCD will experience both obsessions and compulsions.  A smaller number of people experience obsessions without compulsions and an even smaller number of people will perform compulsions without an awareness of their feared or obsessional thoughts.

OCD usually starts in childhood or teenage years.  At its most severe a person with OCD might spend all day performing ‘compulsions’ such that they are unable to leave the hose, hold down a job or maintain relationships.  OCD tends to get worse with time so it is always worth seeking help as early as possible and as soon as the OCD start to become a problem.

What is the link between obsessions and compulsions?

In OCD obsessions and compulsions do not happen independently.  The compulsions usually happen to stop the obsessions from happening, to reduce anxiety or distress resulting from the obsession, or to prevent an obsessional thought from becoming a reality. Examples of this might be someone who hand washes to prevent an obsessional fear of germs.

Obsessions and compulsions are in fact not uncommon among most people – almost all of us will experience an intrusive unwanted thought from time to time.  There are also many things that people do in a particular or repetitive way.  To meet criteria for OCD, obsessions and impulsions must evoke significant distress, must be time consuming, and must interfere with a persons normal functioning.

Understanding obsessions

94% of the population will experience unwanted intrusive thoughts.  These are thoughts or images that seem to come from nowhere that people usually would not want to admit to having.  In OCD these intrusive thoughts or images  occur repeatedly (much more frequently than in someone without OCD) and are experienced as being outside of a persons control. The thoughts or images are unwanted and they evoke significant distress in the individual when they do occur.  Overtime, these obsessions start to occur more and more frequently such that they start to interfere with normal activities like socialising or working.  Common obsessional thoughts include:

  • Contamination (thoughts about germs and disease, dirt, chemical contamination, fear of getting a physical illness or disease)
  • Losing control (fear of acting on a urge to harm oneself or another person, fear of stealing things or yelling out insults)
  • Perfectionism (extreme desire for things to be even or exact, concern with a need to know or remember something important, inability to decide whether to keep or discard things)
  • Harm (fear of being responsible for something horrible happening or of not protecting others through not being careful enough)
  • Unwanted sexual thoughts (forbidden or unwanted sexual thoughts or images)
  • Religious obsessions (concern with offending god, superstitious ideas about lucky or unlucky numbers or colours)

We don’t really know why obsessions occur in some people more than others although a number of different theories have been proposed.  We will cover these theories in a separate blog post.

Understanding compulsions

An example of a ‘normal’ compulsion might be a bedtime or cleaning routine –  doing something in the ‘same’ way repetitively.  In OCD compulsions ‘have’ to be performed.  The thought of not performing the compulsion evokes extreme anxiety usually because the person fears that not performing it will result in a disastrous consequence.   Common compulsions in OCD might include:

  • Washing and cleaning (hand washing; excessive cleaning or washing to remove or prevent contamination)
  • Checking (checking that you didn’t harm someone, make a mistake, that nothing terrible has happened or checking a part of your body)
  • Repeating (rereading or rewriting; repeating routine activities; repeating body movements e.g. tapping, touching, blinking; repeating activities in multiples of the same number)
  • Mental compulsions (praying, counting, mentally reviewing events to ensure you did things ‘right’ or didn’t do wrong)
  • Avoiding (situations that may trigger obsessions or certain words or numbers that might be ‘unlucky’)
  • Order / symmetry (putting things in order or in a certain place so that it feel ‘right’)

Over time, both obsessions and compulsions usually occur more frequently as the person works harder either to stop themselves from having the intrusive thought, or to prevent the intrusive thought from becoming a feared reality.

OCD and Eating Disorders

Whilst OCD and eating disorders are different disorders, they can be related and often coexist.  Some of the ways in which OCD and eating disorders can be related include:

  • OCD may result in an ‘eating disorder’.  For example when a person becomes unable to eat either through fear of contamination by food or because their compulsions become so time consuming.  It might look as though someone is suffering from an eating disorder when actually they have a severe form of OCD.
  • OCD may be caused by low weight – as weight drops behaviours tend to become more obsessive and ritualised – this is a result of the brain being starved.  In these instances, OCD type behaviours tend to resolve with weight gain.
  • The OCD might overlap with an eating disorder – obsessions may be specifically about becoming fat or gaining weight, and compulsions may be about restrictive eating or exercise
  • An eating disorder may be used to ‘resolve’ OCD – occasionally low weight or a focus on food and weight may temporarily distract someone aware from their OCD obsessions.  This means that an eating disorder might be used as a way or reducing distress caused by the OCD.  In these circumstances, as the eating disorder is resolved, OCD behaviours may increase unless they are also effectively treated.

What treatment is available?

Treatment for OCD is highly effective in people who want to stop the compulsions.  CBT is the treatment with the best evidence base and this is often used in combination with education to reduce anxiety.  Around 75% of people will make a full recovery from OCD with appropriate and specialist treatment.

First blog post

From this week The London Centre will be starting our weekly blog item.  We will aim to cover facts, stats, educational items and recovery stories.

We hope that this will be interesting to those of you who want to find more information about eating disorders, body image distress, depression, low self esteem and anxiety.