The Portrayal of Princess Diana’s Struggle with Bulimia on ‘The Crown’

Media Portrayal of ‘The Crown’

The world’s fascination with Princess Diana has experienced a recent awakening with the popularity of Netflix’s TV series, The Crown. Viewers get a new glimpse of royal life behind the glamour, beauty, and splendor. Princess Diana’s struggle with bulimia is at the forefront, with several scenes throughout Season Four, showing Diana engaging in binge eating and self-induced vomiting. The series shows the behaviors in raw form while also capturing some of the psychological elements: the isolation, pressure, and for Diana, new motherhood and an unraveling marriage – all unfolding under the public eye.

In the real events that inspired the dramatic series, The Crown, Princess Diana admitted that she suffered from bulimia nervosa as a young woman. Bulimia nervosa is a potentially lethal eating disorder that is characterized by repeated consumption of large amounts of food followed by compensatory behaviors to attempt to “undo” overeating episodes; these behaviors include self-induced vomiting, laxatives, or diuretics, fasting, or driven exercise. Often, the repeated binge-purge pattern is kept a secret. The struggle is often associated with a sense of shame and embarrassment along with the feeling of being locked into the cycle and unable to find a way out. Of note, with proper intervention, bulimia is fully treatable.

 

A Clinical Perspective

In an article published in Rolling Stone, Columbus Park founder and clinical director, Melissa Gerson, comments on The Crown’s portrayal of Diana’s bulimia: “The way they present Diana’s struggle really highlights the factors that can be central to people who struggle [with eating disorders]. One of the maintaining factors and triggering factors is the isolation she experienced. They really accentuate how alone she was. Also, it’s just a reminder eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Even with someone who is very slender and attractive and seemed to have everything, it’s always eye-opening to be reminded that behind the scenes the reality may be different.”

As is often the case with the popular view of celebrity, as the world was captivated by Princess Diana’s glamour and goodwill, it was easy to assume that she had the joyful, easy, idyllic lifestyle to match the impeccable facade. The Crown’s raw depiction of her eating highlights the often dramatic conflict between the reality and the fantasy of those in the public eye. In fact, it reminds us that we cannot assume anything at all about how other people live based on what is presented on the exterior. The depiction also accurately highlights how varying factors can come together to create the breeding ground for an eating disorder. In particular, we see societal pressures, inadequate social support, and personal emotional struggle as factors that can maintain an eating disorder like bulimia.

 

CBT-E Treatment for Bulimia

While The Crown does not show Princess Diana’s treatment journey as she recovers from her eating disorder, finding help, and support with a trained therapist is of the utmost importance when someone suffers from bulimia. Often people s for many years before seeking help which is particularly unfortunate since there are clear, well-studied, and effective treatments for bulimia.

Consistently and across multiple research trials, Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-E) has been shown to be the most effective treatment for bulimia. It is also the leading treatment for binge eating disorder, a condition that shares many common features with bulimia nervosa. CBT-E is a very efficient, short-term, and time-limited therapy. CBT-E involves one-on-one sessions with a therapist to identify the factors that keep the patient locked into their eating problem – and then systematically the patient and therapist collaboratively tackle these factors in the treatment.

Given the efficacy of CBT-E and that it is generally completed within 4-5 months – it is often our first-line therapy for those who come to us with bulimia, binge eating, or emotional eating.

 

Treatment at Columbus Park

We at Columbus Park hear again and again, about the struggle to navigate a balanced relationship with food and weight in a society that continues to promote and glorify thinness and an unachievable beauty ideal. Recovery is about navigating the harsh realities of our surroundings while healing one’s relationship with food and body. It’s about finding self-compassion, self-acceptance, and a path toward a truly free and nourishing relationship with food.

If you or a loved one is struggling with bulimia or any form of disordered eating for that matter, we encourage you to contact us at info@columbuspark.com. We can tell you more about our services and if they may be right for you.