Emmerdale’s Gemma Oaten opens up about anorexia battle: ‘I went to hell and back’

Soapstar Gemma Oaten has bravely opened up about her eating disorder battle on ITV’s Lorraine

emmerdale gemma oaten itv lorraine

by Kayleigh Dray |
Published on

Gemma, best known for playing Rachel Breckle in ITV’s Emmerdale, was just ten years old when she first developed symptoms of anorexia.

But, despite her pleas for help, her illness was dismissed by health professionals who didn't take her seriously.

It was after this that Gemma's anorexia got progressively worse and aged 12 she was admitted to a children's psychiatric unit.

Gemma was discharged six months later, but her battle continued for ten years.

Now, finally, Gemma feels as if she has fully recovered from her disorder - and wants to draw on her own personal experience to help others.

Gemma Oaten and her mother, Marg Oaten, who has set up Seed, an eating disorder helpline, sat down to speak with Fiona Phillips on ITV’s Lorraine to discuss her anorexia battle.

And, when the show opened with shots of Gemma from when she was younger, they brought the Emmerdale star close to tears.

Opening up about how the images made her feel, Gemma emotionally said: "Yeah I think seeing those pictures, to be honest I haven't seen those in five or six years and wow, it brings back a lot of memories.

“I was petrified of starting school because I was being bullied. But here I am today and it's down to this wonderful woman my mum, and my dad who’s off camera."

Gemma continued: “It's such a weird thing to go through at that age because I don't think I really understood where I was at and what was happening.

“It wasn't until my mum and dad sat me down and said, ‘Gem this isn't you, this isn't the bubbly girl we know’, and this is what anorexia and many mental health illnesses do to young children.

“It strips away the person they once was and it makes them a shell."

Gemma’s mum, Marg, added: "I think it's a given that it has a profound psychological effect on anybody whose part of their life and I think for us it was the isolation.

“This is where there are so many people who come through the helpline who are carers, who are desperate and they don't know where to turn.

“We've been there and I don't think anything can prepare you for ‘your daughter might not make it through this’"

Clearly moved by her mother’s words, Gemma added: "That's one of my biggest heartbreaks and probably why I get upset because of what I put my mum and my dad and my siblings through.

“I think what we want to try and say is that there's a light at the end of the tunnel and people will look at me and mum, and our family unit and see that we went to hell and back but we did it."

Gemma Oaten and her mother appeared on the show ahead of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which launches next week.

Watch the interview in full on ITV.com now.

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