Many disorders affect a person’s perception of self. Among women, the most present are depression and eating disorders, which are often intertwined with one another. While many pharmacological therapies exist for depression, the same cannot be said for anorexia. This is a high priority issue for physicians and scientists who aim to find ways to alleviate those who suffer from the doubly debilitating mental and physical disorder.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), anorexia is characterized by “the abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing,” joined by the breaking down of muscle and bone density, which incudes “fainting, fatigue and overall weakness.” In many cases, dry hair and skin and hair loss are common.
Citing a study from 2011, the NEDA writes that, “A review of nearly fifty years of research confirms that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.” The intense fear and anxiety of gaining weight is fueled by this distorted view of self and place high value in controlling their weight by calorie counting and purging.
Anorexia, as the Mayo Clinic states, is not wholly related to food itself. In truth, food is used as an unhealthy tool to cope with a wider emotional issue. Thus, physicians and scientists have begun applying chemical therapies for anorexia. Just two years ago, Adrianna Boot, underwent a groundbreaking Deep Brain Stimulation therapy (DBS) for anorexia at the University of Toronto Health Network.
Boot has been suffering from anorexia for most of her adult life. According to The Star, “She was first diagnosed with anorexia and hospitalized near her home in Clinton, Ontario for her eating disorder when she was 21 years old. Her parents, Janet and Henry Boot, recall Adrianna barely clinging to life.” In an act of “desperation,” after battling the disorder for her whole life, Adrianna joined the study as her only available attempt at a happy viable life.
DBS is a surgical procedure already being implemented in therapies for related and unrelated diseases. DBS is currently the vanguard treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. The surgical mission implants a biomedical device, in this case an electrode containing a battery, into the brain which then continuously stimulates or inhibits the area of interest. This process over time serves to regulate and normalize the improper biochemical pathways that problematically propagate the disease or disorder.
Adrianna was awake during her surgery, The Star reports. Since her initial entry into the study in 2011, Boot has experienced, for the first time in years, cravings and positive moods.
Though these therapies are revolutionary, treatment for anorexia works best alongside discussion therapy. At Fairwinds Treatment Center, Dr. Pauline Powers, an expert in the field of eating disorders, works with patients and their families to lead patients onto the road to recovery. Making use of Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef’s unique dual diagnosis methodology, which has been a part of Fairwinds’ treatment programs for 25 years, Dr. Powers and the other professionals here work to help patients recover by addressing the psychological triggers behind their eating disorders.