More than 70-thousand women and 30-thousand men in Mississippi have been diagnosed with having an eating disorder. As MPB's Paul Boger reports mental health groups are trying to create awareness of a disease that can prove fatal.
Angela Merrit is from Jackson, and for 25 years she suffered from bulimia.
"I want to be really thin and popular, this will be a good way to do that." said Meritt. "That's how it started. I would binge and purge maybe eight times a day; maybe more. My teeth, I've had to get a lot of work done on my teeth. I threw up blood one time. That didn't even scare me. I kept doing the eating disorder."
Angela's story is all to common. According to the National Eating Disorders Association -- or NEDA, four out of 10 Americans either suffer or know someone who has anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. Experts also believe that number is on the rise. Lynn Grefe is with NEDA, she says if more people are alerted to this ongoing problem, then more of those suffering can get help.
"These are life-threatening illnesses." said Grefe "The earlier we can get people to help the better. Eating disorders are nobody's fault; nobody did anything wrong. They're not lifestyle choices; they are genuine illnesses. We know that eating disorders have the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness. It's really important that we treat these early.
Laura Discipio is with the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. She says there are red flags which family and friends can look out for.
"Sometimes the thing that you can see first is behavioral change, an emotional change." said Discipio. "A person may not be socializing as much. They'd be more withdrawn. They'd be more sad, more quiet. Spend more time in their room. Wear different types of clothes, clothes don't fit the same way. When it’s 80 degrees, wearing long sleeves."
Girls between 15 and 24, who suffer from an eating disorder are 12 times more likely to die from the illness than all other causes of death.