Nanaimo’s Jennifer Doucette didn’t realize she was waging a battle against anorexia, until she learned you don’t have to binge and purge to have the eating disorder.
“That’s what I thought,” she said. “I don’t throw up, so I don’t have a problem, but restricting is just as bad.”
Doucette, 21, now weighing 90 pounds, has started a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to check herself into a private clinic and blogs about her struggle with the disease.
It’s important people realize it’s life-threatening and talk about it, said Doucette.
“If more people were open and honest about it, people wouldn’t be so ashamed and hide or not seek help,” she said.
According to Island Health, there are about 3,000 people on Vancouver Island with a diagnosed eating disorder and 10,000 who are symptomatic.
This month, the health agency and Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness campaign are shining light on the disease during National Eating Awareness Week (Feb. 1-7). B.C. residents are being invited to wear purple to show support for eating disorder awareness and Nanaimo’s historic Bastion will glow purple.
Amy Pezzente, a coordinator with the provincial eating disorders awareness campaign, said the campaign is all about reducing the stigma and getting people to talk. There can be secrecy, denial and stepping on eggshells around eating disorders, but talking about is is how people get support, she said.
Awareness around danger signs and symptoms can also help loved ones recognize when a problem could be arising, says Keva Glynn, Island Health director for strategic and tertiary mental health and substance use services, who adds a combination of dieting and obsessive compulsion, anxiety, depression and desire for control can be the tipping point toward a disorder.
And it’s no short recovery for those who do have diseases, like anorexia nervosa, with the usual journey lasting seven to 10 years. Fifty-per cent of those with anorexia won’t recover, Glynn said.
Island Health is currently building services to address eating disorders as part of a three-year plan. Currently there is no interdisciplinary eating disorder clinic in central Vancouver Island.
Please visit www.viha.ca/health_info/eating_disorders.htm.