10 million girls and women in this country struggle with anorexia and bulimia. Nancy Naeve Brown spoke with a 23 year old Sioux Falls woman who has and is battling these deadly disorders.
Joanie, as we will refer to her, didn't want to be identified, but the 23 year old she did want to talk about anorexia and bulimia, the eating disorders that have had a strong hold on her since she was a sophomore in high school.
Joanie says, "Sometimes it's hard to make myself eat a meal. Sometimes it's hard to keep that meal in. It's something people don't always think about, but when it's a problem it's a big problem."
A year and a half ago Joanie finally acknowledged she needed help. She started seeing Avera McKennan Behavioral Outpatient Counselor Sara Bennetts once a week.
Sara says, "The sooner you get help, the sooner you can get back to living. Eating disorders aren't about food, it's about feelings and the inability to experience feelings and manage them appropriately so they turn to food to cope. Regular people do this too. We use food in so many ways in our society, but for people who develop eating disorders they get a different kind of relief so they continue to use it."
Joanie says, "I think (counseling) it's helped in ways I haven't even noticed. Even my parents were home and noticed a big change. It's helped in ways I can't pinpoint. Confidence, it's helped in that area and eating in general. I've gained 25 pounds in the last year and couple of months."
At her lowest, Joanie weighed 85 pounds. Even though she's put on weight she can't admit she is still thin.
Joanie says, "It's a weird thing not to see yourself the way you really are."
Joanie's mom tried for years to intervene with no luck. Sara Bennetts says you, as a loved one, can't give up trying even if it means getting them to the family doctor for a physical you should do that as a starting point."
Joanie says, "Help is going to sound like the worst idea, but it really is the best plain and simple. Any help you can get."
And you can get that help at Avera by a counselor who knows what it's like to battle and overcome an eating disorder.
Bennetts tells us eating disorders are the deadliest of any psychiatric illness because of malnutrition, organ failure and suicide. She says intervention is crucial because it is a life and death situation and you can't be afraid to make your loved one mad.