• Sally Turberville Smith Dipl. Psych, BA Hons,

    MBACP, UKCP

    Counselling & Psychotherapy Nutritional/Lifestyle Coaching

    Willesden Green, NW2

  • Addictions & Eating Disorders

  • Addictions

  • Feeling that your life is out of control due to an addictive substance or behaviour is a scary and ultimately isolating place that puts either or both your physiological and psychological/mental health at risk.  Addictions by their very nature are secretive and negatively impact upon your relationships, work and ability to be present and enjoy life.

    If you feel that your life is falling apart please do not wait until you reach 'rock bottom' before you admit that you might have a problem and seek help.  It is likely that shame and guilt have made it difficult for you to admit you are struggling and you may find it hard to talk to those closest to you for fear of appearing 'weak' or vulnerable.  It takes a lot of courage to admit one has a problem and could do with some help, yet this is the first, crucial step in recovery.

    Please don't continue to beat up on yourself, deny you have a problem or feel that you should be able to tackle everything that life throws at you alone. Talking things over by sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone who is trained to help you and wants to understand your story and how your internal world functions can be a lifesaver as you begin to feel understood and no longer alone.  It can feel like a  weight has been lifted and the space and structure that weekly therapy provides can help you begin to develop a more compassionate understanding towards yourself and your life circumstances.  You give yourself permission to sit with deep pain and understanding. With time, gentleness and patience you find the resources within to move forward towards living the life you want.

    Addictions can mask or go hand in hand with other physiological or psychological conditions such as ADHD, depression, borderline personality disorder or anxiety.  It may also be the symptom of severe or ongoing loss, trauma or abandonment.  There may also be obsessive compulsive and perfectionist issues that may need to be understood and worked on.

    What Causes An Addiction?

    Poverty, financial stress, divorce or bereavement may be contributory factors, but there are also genetic, familial and environmental/societal influences and some adults who become addicts have suffered chronic neglect and abandonment when young. Also growing up with someone who has an addiction or being in contact with addicts may make developing an addiction more likely.

    Each of us in unique with a unique familiy and cultural background and I will work with you compassionately drawing on a wide range of therapeutic skills to help you.

    Eating Disorders

    Eating Disorders are highly complex and the seeds are often planted in childhood.  Parents are role models for their children and if your parents had strict family food rules or struggled with their own issues regarding weight, food, body image and exercise it is likely that they will have passed these on to you.  It is also important that as a child you were exposed to a wide variety of foods and that you learnt about good nutrition and that you were given the opportunity to discover your own food preferences and discover your own hunger and appetite mechanisms.

    Maybe you feel or used to feel under a lot of academic pressure from your school or university as well as  internal pressure to do well/be the best from within your family.  It is natural for children to want to please their parents, but if you feel that you were not 'good enough' or 'bright enough' or you were valued or appreciated by your parents only when you performed well you might suffer increasingly as a teen/young adult with low self-esteem and anxiety which can lead you to try to control and perfect yourself and your life with extreme dieting and exercise.  If your parents didn't validate your feelings, teach you how to self-soothe or appreciate your uniqueness then you will need to discover this for yourself and this often forms a large part of the work in counselling.

    The rise in social media means that more young people are now preoccupied with body image and aesthetics and learning to respect and honour your body whatever shape or size is crucial.

    Sometimes an eating disorder will develop in response to a traumatic loss or break up in the family.  It may be the way a young person tries to make sense of and control a world that is now too painful for them to contemplate.  They will need time and space to grieve, talk and have their feelings validated by an adult who is in touch with their feelings and able to model kindness and compassion.  If this is not the case they may feel angry and sad because their needs have been neglected or eclipsed by others and there is no-one to listen and care about their internal world.

    Eating disorders are much more common in women than men but in both sexes those who develop eating disorders are often striving for some sense of order in a chaotic world and they may have difficulty with the reality of life as messy and unpredictable.  Perfectionist and OCD tendencies are common themes.

    It may be that a physical injury or illness has stopped a young person from exercising or being with their peers and as the hormonal and physiological changes during adolescene kick in obsession with how one looks especially in girls and thoughts about food choices previously something that did not concern oneself as a child become very important as one sees one's body change and take on a more curvaceous womanly shape. Films, TV, reality shows and advertisements bombard us with images of beauty and perfection that are unrealistic.  Young people today are actively engaging in social media that may feel very anxiety provoking if one does not feel thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough to fit in and feel accepted.

    Mothers - nourishment and the feminine

    It is from our mothers that we learn what it is to be a woman and how to nurture ourselves.  Our mother's attitude to her body, food and the feminine will shape our own.  If your mother was comfortable with her body, enjoyed food and looked after herself emotionally and physically it is likely that you will too.

    If you feel that you are developing an eating disorder or have been struggling for some time with one please call me rather than continue to go it alone.  If you are under 18 and it is appropriate I may need to see you first but then a second time with your mother or father as it is important that I have a sense of your family dynamic and understand from both you and your parents how the problems have arisen, what is currently going on and the kind of relationship you all have with one another.   If we decide to work together I will help you make sense of what may seem conflicting or destructive thoughts and feelings and build honest and open relationships with your family if this has been eroded.  It is likely that you are turning a 'core pain' from the past in on yourself and I can help you learn to express and honour all of your self whilst I will also use my nutritional knowledge to help you manage your food and establish regularity in eating whilst gradually helping you let go of the need to restrict, binge or purge.

    If you are a parent of an adolescent who has developed an eating disorder it is natural to blame yourself.  When I work with adolescents and young people I always try and help them understand that their parents just like themselves are not perfect and that they are only doing the best they can given their upbringings and situations in life.  What is helpful is to look honestly at yourself and to talk openly with your teenager.  Adolescents hate inauthenticity or 'fakeness' and they need to see their parents as real people who are not afraid to apologise or admit they might have got something wrong. 

    Ultimately young people need to learn how best to mother and father themselves so that they can choose to eat healthily and get to bed when they are tired. To be able to set limits and boundaries for themselves in their work and careers and to learn to love and respect others as they love and respect themselves.