Dominique's Story

The crippling cost of eating disorders


This year, the Butterfly Foundation is aiming to raise the alarm on the crippling cost of eating disorders. I am sharing our story to support this campaign. My sister Odette, now 28 years old, has been battling severe and enduring anorexia nervosa since the age of 16. During this time, the costs of living with and treating this disease have been enormous and have had a hugely detrimental impact on our entire family. Odette has not been able to achieve what she could have without an eating disorder (ED). A brave effort to continue and do well in year 12 at school was unbelievable. The recent completion of a diploma in marketing was another big goal. However, she has been unable to complete any other education and has never been capable of working due to the mental and physical disabilities associated with the ED. Therefore, Odette has never been able to earn an income and has continued to live in my parents’ home, which is currently the only affordable and suitable option for her situation.

Ever since Odette’s diagnosis with anorexia nervosa, treatment has been continuous. Treatment with psychiatrists and psychologists has been an enormous financial cost to my parents and to Odette. Medication is an ongoing financial cost to Odette. Treatment over a long duration has not yet led to recovery and the physical and mental health repercussions of having an ED has caused Odette to further debilitate and develop multiple comorbid disorders. This has resulted in additional costs. Although it is difficult to see any improvement in Odette’s health despite continuous treatment spanning over a decade, my parents and Odette are still willing to pay the financial costs with the desperate hope that something will lead to her recovery one day.

The biggest cost of all has been the impact on the wellbeing of our entire immediate family. My other sister Alexandra and I are saddened that the ED has taken all the opportunities and experiences we have had away from Odette and we are constantly worried about her future. Odette’s ED causes extreme stress and anxiety for my parents and their mental and physical health has consequently suffered. Living with Odette’s ED every day is having a major impact on my parents’ quality of life.

Worst of all is the impact that the ED has had on Odette herself. For Odette, the ED has presented many traumatic and life threatening situations and has prevented the ability to live any sense of a normal, happy life. Our family are hopeful that affordable, effective treatment for eating disorders in Australia will become more available in the near future.

We are also hopeful that Odette will recover one day and have the opportunity to experience a happy, fulfilling life, as she, like everyone else, deserves.