‘I lost 13 years of my life’: Emmerdale’s Gemma Oaten reveals she ‘nearly died four times’ during her battle with anorexia after being admitted to psychiatric unit when she was just 11
- For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk
Gemma Oaten has revealed she ‘nearly died four times’ during her 13-year battle with anorexia.
The former Emmerdale star, 36, admitted she lost over a decade of her life to the disorder after being admitted to a psychiatric unit when she was just 11 years old.
Gemma details her struggles with anorexia in a film set to air on ITV’s Lorraine on Thursday, telling Dr Alex George she didn’t ‘understand’ the disorder until she’d undergone months of therapy.
Candid: Gemma Oaten has revealed she ‘nearly died four times’ during her 13-year battle with anorexia (pictured in 2016)
According to The Sun, in the film Gemma takes Alex back to her school in Hull, Yorkshire while revealing she first began battling anorexia when she was 11.
She says: ‘I lost 13 years of my life and nearly died four times. I don’t want that to happen to anybody else.
‘It’s not about food – food is the symptom, it’s not the cause.’
‘When you’re encompassed by an eating disorder, which is a health illness, the misconception of it is that you chose to have an eating disorder.’
Difficult: The Emmerdale star admitted she lost over a decade of her life to the disorder after being admitted to a psychiatric unit when she was just 11 years old
Gemma, who starred as Rachel Breckle on Emmerdale from 2011 to 2015, has openly detailed her battles with anorexia, and previously revealed she ended up in a psychiatric unit when she was just 11 years old.
Explaining the causes she revealed it stemmed back to being bullied and not being able to control what people were saying about her.
Speaking to the Loose Women panel in March she said: ‘I was ten-years-old [when I developed an eating disorder] and in hindsight I realised it was down to the bullying and I couldn’t control what people were saying about me.
Difficult: Gemma (pictured in Emmerdale as Rachel Breckle) details her struggles with anorexia in a film set to air on ITV’s Lorraine on Thursday
WHAT IS ANOREXIA?
Anorexia is an eating disorder and a mental health condition.
People diagnosed with it try to keep their weight as low as possible by eating little or excessive exercise.
Men and women can develop the illness, however it typically starts in the mid-teens.
Those with anorexia can have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they’re fat when in fact they are severely underweight.
Causes of the condition are unknown, but those with it have either low self-esteem, have a family history of eating disorders or feel pressured from society or place of work.
Long term health complications can include muscle and bone problems, loss of sex drive, kidney or bowel problems or having a weakened immune system.
Treatment for anorexia can include cognitive behavioural therapy.
‘At the time, I didn’t know that, I didn’t even know what anorexia was. Cut to a year later, I was put into a psychiatric unit where I was told if I didn’t eat or drink in 24 hours, I would be dead.
She went on to explain how the pandemic has exacerbated some people’s problems, saying: ‘I think lockdown has created a huge pressure cooker for us all.
‘And especially eating disorders where it is a mental health illness where we use it to control things we can’t and at the moment, we can’t control anything so I’m not surprised by the catastrophic numbers.
‘Early intervention is so key, waiting for it to change isn’t going to change what is already there and we shouldn’t try and fix an eating disorder based on physical attributes.’
She added that lots of people who aren’t deemed to be ‘losing weight’ still have problems and that issues like binge eating and restrictive eating disorders aren’t discussed enough.
The actress continued: ‘None of these things get discussed. Bulimia and binge eating can kill, and it [eating disorders] has the highest mortality rate of any other mental health illness and we need to start talking about it more seriously.’
Earlier that month Gemma shared a gallery of candid images after detailing how she nearly died five times in 13 years due to her struggles with the eating disorder.
Gemma who has spoken openly about her battles with anorexia in the past, added that she was a ‘prisoner in her own mind’ while she struggled to overcome the disorder.
In a lengthy post Gemma offered context to each of the images she shared, with the first being when she was 18 years old holding her baby niece, and the second taken when she was 13 after being allowed to leave a psychiatric unit to holiday with her family.
Disturbing: The star (pictured left age 18 and right 19) who has spoken openly about her battles with anorexia, previously said that she was a ‘prisoner in her own mind’
The third photo came when she was 20, holding her baby nephew while undergoing therapy for her anorexia battle, while the final image was taken when she was just 11, with Gemma claiming she’d been ‘turned away for treatment.’
Gemma admitted in the caption she’d been reluctant to share images from her time battling anorexia, but decided to speak out to urge her followers to seek help if they were going through the same thing.
Gemma first formed a complicated relationship with food at the age of ten before being diagnosed with an eating disorder just two years later.
And she has been battling numerous health issues since as a direct result of her anorexia.
For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk.
Battle: Explaining the causes, she revealed it stemmed back to being bullied and not being able to control what people were saying about her (pictured at 18, holding her baby niece)
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