The Long Read: Eating disorder facility opens in Banbury

Banbury Mayor Cllr Colin Clarke, Eytan Alexander, founder of UKAT and Mayoress Jenifer Clarke NNL-180222-154928001
Banbury Mayor Cllr Colin Clarke, Eytan Alexander, founder of UKAT and Mayoress Jenifer Clarke NNL-180222-154928001

A state-of-the-art treatment centre for a whole host of addictions and disorders has been opened in the heart of Banbury.

The 23-room facility, christened Banbury Lodge, is the seventh such purpose-built centre opened by UK Addiction Treatment Centres, or UKAT for short, in the UK.

In addition to the 23 bedrooms, complete with en suite bathrooms the treatment has been furnished with a gymnasium, group and one-to-one treatment rooms, a dining room and a separate family support space. It is expected to welcome its first residents today, March 1.

Staffed 24/7 by psychiatrists and therapists specialising in addiction, the centre will treat a wide array of physical addictions from alcohol and prescription drug dependance to gambling addiction and eating and food related disorders.

It has also reduced its inpatient age admission policy to 16 to facilitate the growing number of teenagers suffering from anorexia, bulimia and other associated eating maladies.

Eytan Alexander, founder of UKAT and a former drug, alcohol and gambling addict, said: “We are very proud to say we will be focusing on eating disorders, we believe that there’s a huge rise in what’s going on there.

“Our enquiries are telling us that they can’t get the help and support they need to tackle their disorder quickly enough, and that for some, this means that they are forced to continue with their disorder.”

He added: “We are a treatment facility in its truest sense, we are not a care home or a hospital. We deal with the underlying issues of what’s going on and that might be co-occurring disorders, so we have a psychiatrist, who will do a full psycho-social assessment.”

Treatments for drug dependency issues usually require a 28-day stay in the facility through abstinence and behavioural changes.

Food related disorders, however, can take months to work through due to the necessary daily interaction we need with food.

The private facility will take referrals from the NHS but the exact cost of a stay is not available on their website.

Mr Alexander said: “As an organisation we take NHS referrals it’s generally to other facilities though.

“The problem is if you’re paying £500 to £600 per week (from the NHS) for this level of care , we’d be losing money every month.

“If someone has that desperation and they want to get help, then we will support them and the pay we get from the NHS is subsidised by our private pay clients.”

One woman who has gone walked through the corridors of addiction and emerged scarred but healthy on the other side is former fitness instructor Sarah.

Sarah, not her real name, had suffered from a eating disorder for over a decade, first developing dangerously unhealthy eating habits when she was just 13-year-old.

Sarah said: “That’s when it started with conscious thoughts about my body image which resulted in anorexia and bulimia.”

Like so many cases of eating disorder Sarah found herself pulled in that direction by the stresses of everyday life.

Sarah said: “I think it was a combination of peer pressure and I was also in a high pressure school environment where you were expected to be a high achiever.

“Also I was very conscious of my social environment. Its about the time you start having an interest in the opposite sex.”

By age 15 Sarah weighed just five-and-a-half stone and her daily intake of food consisted of just bubblegum and grapes.

Health issues relating to bulimia and anorexia became more apparent as the constant purging caused her teeth to rot and her body lost the ability to menstruate.

Recovery for Sarah was a long and slow process, she explains: “I think it took me from the age of 16 until 26 for me to acknowledge there was a problem. “That’s not to say I did nothing. I went to see various psychiatrists and my mum took me to see the GP on numerous occasions. She added: “I think my mum started looking at treatment options for me when I was about 17.”

Sarah, now 40, was only treated for her eating disorder due to admission into a clinic for co-occuring substance abuse.

Sarah said: “Until I went into a rehab clinic for other addictions along side an eating disorder every councillor and psychiatrist I had seen was trying to look for some deep rooted childhood trauma. It wasn’t that at all.”

Sarah,clean of drugs for 12 years, still struggles from time to time with food.

She said: “It’s still there in your mindset, it remains in your mind. Whenever there’s something stressful in my life my mind will go back to thinking about my body image.”

For more information on how Banbury Lodge will treat patients, visit www.ukat.co.uk/banbury-lodge