NOTE: To read the latest update on Aimee's condition, please click here:
Following the news yesterday that Aimee Moore had been admitted to Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ontario, for tube feeding, the following article appeared in the Globe and Mail.
"ANOREXIC IN PUBLIC
Glorifying illness - or helping out?
July 9, 2008
It is a private moment played out in bedrooms each day: a young woman standing in the mirror, checking herself out.
Except in this case, the reflection was of a skeletal 60-pound woman named Aimee Moore, poking the spots on her concave stomach where she wanted to lose weight. And instead of being private, those images were broadcast to the world.
This week, less than five months after appearing on the Dr. Phil show, the 28-year-old Stratford, Ont., woman who suffers from anorexia and bulimia was admitted to a Mississauga hospital where she will be fed through a tube and treated to heal her damaged digestive system - an update that has already been published in several Ontario newspapers.
Like others who have suffered from an eating disorder, Ms. Moore has sought media exposure in a bid to find the help she desperately needs and steer others away from the illness that has consumed her life for 16 years. "She and her mother are working to try and help other people," her father, Dave Moore, said yesterday from his home in Stratford.
But some experts say that that exposure, in some cases, can be a catalyst for the disease - and holding a mirror up to the horror may do more to perpetuate the illness than prevent it.
"I don't see the advantage for the patient," says Hany Bissada, director of Ottawa's Regional Centre for the Treatment of Eating Disorders. "Television [thrives on] shock effect. That's good for Dr. Phil. But it doesn't do anything for the patient. In some twisted way, it glorifies her illness."
Ms. Moore was 14 the first time she was hospitalized for her eating disorder. By 18, her story became public after her mother, Pat Moore, who had founded an eating disorder support group, shared their struggle at a public forum. Ms. Moore later told a Kitchener-Waterloo Record reporter: "I feel a lot more free now."
But on Feb. 25, Ms. Moore appeared on Dr. Phil weighing 60 pounds. She described herself as fat, evil and hopeless. Cameras filmed her vomiting into a garbage can, then gulping down food in the middle of the night. She described how she would eat vomit to induce gagging.
Ms. Moore had reached out to the show, not the other way around.
"If I don't get help soon I don't think I'm going to survive," Ms. Moore wrote in an e-mail to a producer. She had tried several other treatment clinics in Ontario and the United States without success.
Since the show aired, Ms. Moore's progress has been chronicled in several front-page stories in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record. Some outlined the intimate details of her life: the diagnoses of mental illness, the hasty marriage that failed, the childhood abuse by a stranger, which her mother said led to her daughter's eating disorder.
Mr. Moore said he didn't find the show sensational. "It's what goes on," he said. "I have to live with it all the time."
Anne Elliott, program director of Sheena's Place, a Toronto eating disorder clinic, says in some cases, media exposure can raise awareness and encourage people who are struggling to seek help.
But after viewing a clip from the Dr. Phil show, she said people may take the wrong message because Ms. Moore's case is so extreme. "I'd be worried that people would see that and say, 'Well, I don't look like that so I don't have a disorder,' " she said.
Without the root causes of eating disorders being shown, she added, people may adopt a "blame the victim" attitude. "She's suffering from a serious illness... ," Ms. Elliott said. "I would worry that people would see her and say, 'Well, she just needs to eat.' It is about eating, but it's not that simple," Ms. Elliott said.
Dr. Bissada, a psychiatrist, said that those with eating disorders may be afraid that if they get better, they'll be forgotten by relatives and friends. In some cases, Dr. Bissada said, media exposure can fuel that desperate need for attention. In others, they are seeking treatment, which can be a positive outcome.
In April, Ms. Moore returned to Ontario after seven weeks at Magnolia Creek, an Alabama treatment centre where she'd been treated free of charge since appearing on the Dr. Phil show. She needed medical help because she now has a stomach condition that makes it extremely painful to take in food.
Ms. Moore will likely be at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga for at least a month, Mr. Moore said. His wife has rented a place nearby and plans to visit every day.
Once Ms. Moore's stomach improves, she has been invited to return to the Alabama clinic for free treatment. "She wants to go back there," Mr. Moore said. "But she has to get herself stabilized and functioning again."
What do you think?
Does media attention raise awareness and help prevent eating disorders or glorify and perpetuate them?