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The Doctors meet Brittany, who shares one of the most extreme cases of anorexia The Doctors have ever covered.
From a young age, Brittany says she struggled with her self-image. She was bullied as a child for her terrible acne. At around 13 years old, Brittany started to find comfort in controlling her food. Her mother, Susan, says, “Things she happily ate before, she stopped eating.” Susan describes picking up Brittany from school one day and finding her slumped over and thinking she wasn’t breathing, rushing her to the hospital.
Brittany went in for treatment which she says was a “blessing and a curse.” There she learned she was not alone, but also, every single tip to hide your eating disorder. Tips which she put into play like wearing four layers of clothing and adding weights to her bra when she went to get weighed in at the doctor.
Brittany’s body began to break down. She says she had trouble walking and her vision got cloudy. She was admitted to the ICU where she weighed in at a shockingly low 56 pounds. Brittany fought it but eventually got a feeding tube to stabilize her body.
Brittany today has been in recovery for four years, but her eating disorder continued after she went to the ICU. Brittany shares that she went from being anorexic to having a binge eating disorder, where she eventually weighed in at 220 pounds.
Psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow joins The Doctors to discuss Brittany’s case. He says outsiders may find it strange that someone can go from anorexia to binge eating but he says it can absolutely happen. He says they actually have a lot in common and Brittany agrees. “My mind was always the same.”
Dr. Dow says that polarized or all-or-nothing thinking is something that is often seen with anorexia. He says the thinking of "if it’s not perfect it’s a failure" can get people with eating disorders into a lot of trouble. Brittany says that was true for her. “My weight took on drastically different form, but my mind never changed. It was still that driving force that inhibited me from participating in life. My eating disorder became my identity,” shares Brittany.
Brittany attributes her family who never left her side as the factor that finally led to her recovery. Dr. Dow notes that an eating disorder is a family disease. Brittany’s parents, Susan and Lee, and her sister, Kasey are in the audience to share how this eating disorder affected them all.
Susan said she spent every day “hoping, praying, wishing, and dreaming that she [Brittany] would wake up with the clarity in her mind that ‘I’m okay, I don’t need this anymore, I’m going to go forward with my life and I’m better.’”
Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra asks Susan and Lee how this affected their marriage. Lee says they both love each other very much and were extremely motivated to do whatever it took to help their daughter get better.
Brittany’s sister Kasey explains how as the younger sister, she felt this pressure to play a specific role at a young age. She felt she needed to be the perfect child because she didn’t want to add any stress to her family.
Dr. Batra applauds Brittany’s family for how well they’ve handled this. She says it’s an example of how even in a very supportive and loving family an extreme eating disorder can exist. Dr. Dow asks Brittany’s family what the best lesson they learned from this was. Susan says they found humor in really horrible situations. She says they’re a whole unit that works at it together.
The title of Brittany’s book, “Safety in Numbers” speaks to what her mother said. “That’s how I live my life,” shares Brittany.
Dr. Dow points out how astonishing it is that Brittany is still alive today. He says anorexia is the most lethal diagnosis in mental health and Brittany’s was not middle of the road, her case was severe. “This woman has another chance at life,” says Dr. Dow.
Brittany leaves viewers and anyone who may be suffering from an eating disorder with this message. “You’re not alone. That’s the biggest thing for me that I realized. This is not your fault. It wasn’t your choice. There is support and you can absolutely get better and turn your life around.”