"I couldn't think of very much else. It had consumed all of my thoughts."
Emily Kovar is recovering from anorexia. She says the condition took its toll on her body and mind.
Kovar says, "As you get more sick, your thoughts only become more distorted. Your vision of yourself only becomes more distorted. Your self esteem just plummets."
Luckily, Emily got help to break that cycle. If she hadn't, the long term effects could have been devastating, loss of menstruation, osteoporosis, and possible death.
Kovar says, "I remember he said to me my heart probably wouldn't have lasted another week."
Anorexia is just one way severe low self esteem can manifest itself. Bulimia is another. That’s when a person eats normally, but then forces the food out of their system, again with serious side effects.
Dr. James Davis is a psychiatrist. He says, "If you ask dentists about bulimia … problems with enamel on the teeth. The acidity of the process of vomiting can actually be hard on the enamel on your teeth."
Betsy Pierce is an outreach counselor at Western Kentucky University. She says, "With bulimia you get into all the ruptures in the stomach and esophagus. And both disorders the electrolytes get out of balance causing heart damage and organ damage."
Another manifestation of low self esteem is cutting yourself to cause pain. These cuts can do serious long-term damage to the skin.
Davis says, "It gets to the point where it becomes friable. It’s not able to mend itself anymore; it begins to lose its ability to do that if you keep cutting in the same spot. And then you get to the point where you have to have a skin graft."
Now that Emily is recovering from her condition, her body is healing as well. She's proof these diseases can be beaten with the right help. Experts say it's all about addressing the underlying issues which first caused the problems.
Pierce says, "Certainly you hope to build the self esteem so they wouldn't feel the need for restricting their weight or being bulimic or cutting or any of those types of things.”