'Depressed woman killed herself after 'gross failings' by medics'
Depressed woman, 30, with body dysmorphia who was obsessed with looking in mirrors and only drank Pepsi Max killed herself with drugs overdose after ‘gross failings’ by medics, inquest hears
- Charlotte Comer, 30, suffered from body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia
- Miss Comer died from an overdose on July 20 2021 after her referral was paused
A woman with anorexia who was obsessed with looking in mirrors and only drank Pepsi Max killed herself after ‘gross failings’ by medics, an inquest heard.
Charlotte Comer, 30, suffered years of mental health battles over her body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) after she was relentlessly bullied at school.
The assistant physiotherapist, of Earl’s Croome, Worcestershire, became obsessed with checking her reflection in mirrors and started self-harming.
She died from a drug overdose on July 20 2021.
Miss Comer racked up huge debts buying clothes she wouldn’t wear and after having her eyebrows micro-bladed, became more self-conscious because she believed people were staring at her.
Charlotte Comer, 30, suffered years of mental health battles over her Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) after she was relentlessly bullied at school
She became anorexic and her body mass index plummeted to 16 – the same as an average four-year-old child.
Miss Comer consumed a strict Pepsi Max only diet but despite her condition, she was abandoned by blundering NHS staff.
An inquest heard she eventually ‘lost hope’ of receiving the help she needed and died from an overdose on July 20 2021.
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Worcestershire Coroner David Reid said Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust was guilty of ‘gross failings’ which contributed to her suicide.
The inquest heard Miss Comer had a history of overdosing and in 2018 fell into a three-week coma for three weeks after taking pills.
Throughout her struggles, she had eight care coordinators but for five months in 2021 did not see anyone about her condition.
Months before her death, Miss Comer was referred to The Priory Hospital for treatment but her referral was paused by a doctor.
In a letter explaining Miss Comer’s condition to her GP, Professor Veal, from London’s The Priory Hospital, wrote that with BDD ‘you are frequently checking reflective surfaces and that’s significantly distressing for you’.
Despite her condition, a senior clinician did not feel her conditions met the criteria for her treatment to be locally funded.
In fact the clinician had not realised the care would be fully funded by NHS England and Miss Comer should have been referred for treatment.
The inquest heard the fatal blunder led Miss Comer to feel ‘confused’ and suffer a ‘loss of hope’.
Liam Dolan, from Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, said the lack of coordinators was due to sickness and an extensive workload with staff handling 100 cases each.
Miss Comer racked up huge debts buying clothes she wouldn’t wear and after having her eyebrows micro-bladed, became more self-conscious because she believed people were staring at her
After the inquest at Stourport-on-Severn, Miss Comer’s sister Mo Knight Evans said: ‘We want to make sure that a tragedy like this doesn’t happen again to other families with loved ones struggling with BDD.
‘Charlotte was articulate and intelligent. She was more than aware of the significant impact that BDD was having on her life.
‘Over the years, Charlotte diligently researched her symptoms and was convinced she needed a referral for specialist BDD treatment.
‘She knew The Priory offered the care and support she needed, but the NHS failed her.’
Miss Knight Evans claimed the NHS did not refer her sister and ‘crucially, could not properly manage her expectations’.
She added that her sister had gone ‘to great lengths to tell every single member of every care team she met the extent of her condition and its devastating impact on her life.
‘She battled so hard to be understood, fight her BDD and get the specialist care she desperately needed. But it was not forthcoming.
‘One of Charlotte’s last wishes, before she died, was to ‘make a noise’ so that others diagnosed with BDD do not suffer in the same way that unfortunately had.’
WHAT IS BODY DYSMORPHIC DISORDER?
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others.
People of any age can have BDD, but it is most common in teenagers and young adults. It affects both men and women.
Having BDD does not mean you are vain or self-obsessed. It can be very upsetting and have a big impact on your life.
Symptoms of BDD
You might have BDD if you:
- worry a lot about a specific area of your body (particularly your face)
- spend a lot of time comparing your looks with other people’s
- look at yourself in mirrors a lot or avoid mirrors altogether
- go to a lot of effort to conceal flaws – for example, by spending a long time combing your hair, applying make-up or choosing clothes
- pick at your skin to make it ‘smooth’
BDD can seriously affect your daily life, including your work, social life and relationships. BDD can also lead to depression, self-harm and even thoughts of suicide.
You should visit your GP if you think you might have BDD.
If you have relatively mild symptoms of BDD you should be referred for a type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which you have either on your own or in a group
If you have moderate symptoms of BDD you should be offered either CBT or a type of antidepressant medication called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)
If you have more severe symptoms of BDD, or other treatments don’t work, you should be offered CBT together with an SSRI.
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