PEI·In Depth

When food becomes the enemy

Two P.E.I. women face struggles within the health-care system as they deal with eating disorders. They say changes are needed.
Natalie Sullivan and Beth Dowbiggin have spent years dealing with their eating disorders. After struggling to find understanding and the appropriate help, they eventually found inspiration and the road to recovery. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

Having a mental illness is hard enough, but what if you face lack of understanding and a lack of help from the health-care system on top of that?

That's what two Island women say they've face in their struggles with eating disorders.

Natalie Sullivan and Beth Dowbiggin shared their experiences with the CBC's Laura Chapin: how their anorexia started, the misconceptions they face, their struggle to find adequate treatment on P.E.I., and ultimately what changed to help them turn their lives around and start to get better again.

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A difficult relationship with food

Eating disorders can start with what may just appear to be unusual quirks. For Natalie Sullivan and Beth Dowbiggin, these quirks grew into a serious problem.

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A change in attitude

Dealing with mental illness is never easy, but the problems for Natalie Sullivan and Beth Dowbiggin were made worse by negative attitudes not just from the public, but within the health-care system as well.

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Getting started

Natalie Sullivan and Beth Dowbiggin both started on the path to getting better when their parents took them to their family doctor. But it was a long, difficult road, including visits to many health professionals, before healing could really start.

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Health professional training

Island doctors, psychologists and social workers agree more training is needed for dealing with people who have eating disorders.

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Turning point

Natalie Sullivan and Beth Dowbiggin describe how they finally started to get better.

Listen here.

For mobile device users: How would you rate your knowledge of eating disorders?