Brain Stimulation May Provide Relief for Treatment-Resistant Anorexia

Experts say that of all mental disorders, anorexia is potentially the most deadly. Despite attempts at therapy, many cases have been impervious to treatment. A new exploratory technique may help those suffering from chronic, treatment-resistant anorexia.

Many times patients are prevented from receiving the benefits of behavioral therapies because the overwhelming anxiety and depression they feel can be crippling. The effective application of brain probes used to combat the effects of Parkinson’s disease is now being tested on psychiatric disorders like anorexia.

The way it works is doctors insert electrodes into the brain to the area deemed dysfunctional. The mechanism ushers electrical pulses to the electrodes, stimulating the targeted area of the brain. While the exact reason for the success of deep brain stimulation remains a mystery, scientists hypothesize that the electricity enhances certain neural circuits while helping to subdue others.

The study was small with just six subjects, but it has steadily gained attention as there are not many options for perpetual sufferers of anorexia. Although counseling and therapy is helpful for many individuals, for up to 30 percent of anorexics, the condition becomes chronic and potentially deadly.

For Kim Rollins of Canada, the procedure has been life-changing. After struggling with anorexia for over 20 years, she admits that she had one foot in the grave. Rollins said even her own mother was planning her funeral as she was only 36 and had already suffered a heart attack and multiple strokes.

With the small size of the study, results are not significant but do represent opportunity for further research. Researchers warn that the procedure is risky and could result in severe side effects, outcomes that would be tested in the future with a larger sample size.

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