Rachael Farrokh, 37, posted a YouTube video to raise money to get treatment for anorexia
The San Clemente, California, woman is 5’7″ and weighs roughly 40 lbs. as the result of her 10-year struggle with anorexia.
In the emotional video – which has been viewed over three million times and resulted in over $195,000 raised for her treatment – she describes years of psychological pain and suffering and breathlessly asks for help.
A critical point
While Farrokh has been battling the disorder for a decade, her dramatic weight loss from 125 lbs. to 40 lbs. has caused serious health problems.
WARNING the image below is quite graphic
“She is at a critical point,” her husband, Rod Edmondson, writes on the couple’s GoFundMe page.
“She has had multiple blood transfusion, blood clots, edema and has suffered heart, liver and kidney failure already,” he wrote. “Her days are limited if we don’t take action immediately.”
Edmondson writes that he planned to use the funds raised to set up equipment and bring professionals to their home in the hopes of stabilizing his wife’s condition.
However, when Farrokh was rushed to the hospital Friday for dangerously low potassium levels, she said she was ready to enter a treatment program, her sister told The Orange County Register in a story posted June 5.
In cases as extreme as Farrokh’s, patients need intensive medical care prior to traditional eating disorder treatment.
“For somebody who’s so malnourished, it’s really dangerous to start re-feeding right away without medical monitoring,” Heather Russo, site director for the eating disorder treatment facility at the Renfrew Center, tells PEOPLE.
A team of medical professionals – from doctors to dieticians to psychiatrists – are needed to stabilize a patient in her state of extreme weight loss.
A complex illness
“Eating disorders are very complex illnesses,” Claire Mysko, director of programs for the National Eating Disorders Association, tells PEOPLE.
“They have both psychological roots and can have very serious medical consequences,” she says. “You have to treat both of those aspects.”
Farrokh herself knows her struggle goes beyond the physical.
“This is a psychological disease followed up with biological pains and suffering,” she says with a quivering voice in the video.
As Russo explains, treating anorexia involves addressing high levels of anxiety.
The link between anxiety and the illness includes “anxiety over loss of control, fear of weight gain, fear of physical discomfort that can happen when someone re-feeds and fear of letting go of the illness,” Russo says.
This level of anxiety can also explain how a person could get to such a severe state before seeking help – even if patients are aware of their own struggles, these fears can overpower their desire to get better.
“One of the things that we know about eating disorders is that they’re characterized by secrecy,” Russo tells PEOPLE.
Edmondson writes that his wife kept her battle secret for years “for people not to worry and also due to the shame of the disorder.”
A greater impact
Now that Farrokh’s struggle has become so public, she hopes it will help others avoid her fate.
“I want other anorexics to hear this,” she told ABC News. “This is miserable. Everything hurts from my head down to my toes.”
While stories like Farrokh’s draw attention to how serious and life-threatening eating disorders can be, Mysko says the spread of images of extreme weight loss cases can have a negative impact on others struggling with eating disorders.
“The image and the video itself can be very triggering for those who are struggling,” says Mysko.
“We want to make sure that it doesn t prevent people who might think, ‘Oh, I’m not that extreme, I’m not that bad’ from reaching out for help,” he says.
Those struggling with an eating disorder can reach out for help here or call NEDA’s confidential helpline at 1-800-931-2237.