Drug-free treatment gives hope to anorexic patients

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hayley Browne was 12 when she "got sick". At first she tried to keep her anorexia a secret.

"You'd start to feel better and you'd think, 'hey, this isn't so bad' then you feel a bit hypocritical and you think, 'why did I fight this for so many years?'

"Things just deteriorated over the years and we tried many different treatments in Melbourne."

Then she heard of the Mandometer clinic in Sweden.

The clinic has treated eating disorders in more than 400 people worldwide - 50 from Australia and New Zealand - without the need for drugs such as anti-depressants.

Its drug-free approach stems from the founding scientists' belief that depression, anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms associated with eating disorders are the result of the starvation, rather than the other way around.

Its founders, Dr Cecilia Bergh and Professor Per Sodersten, were in Auckland last week showing their Mandometer biofeedback treatment to health professionals.

The programme re-educates patients in how to recognise the feeling of fullness by eating their meals using a specially designed computer scale and graph which guides them towards normal eating volumes and rates. (People with anorexia eat more slowly than the norm).

The clinic is based in Sweden at the Karolinska Institute, a medical research facility in Stockholm, where treatment is fully subsidised by the Swedish Government.

The programme also has out-patient clinics in Melbourne, San Diego, and Amsterdam.

Dr Bergh said the clinic was looking to set up in New Zealand, depending on public support, otherwise it would continue to treat New Zealand patients from Melbourne.

The treatment regime claims a 75 per cent success rate over the past 13 years and a relapse rate of 10 per cent.

Ms Browne, now 20, said her treatment in Stockholm, which was funded by private insurance, made a huge difference.

"It's so exhilarating to get well from that disease. I can't explain that."

The Melbourne woman was in remission early this year and was able to return to work.

She has a normal body weight, normal social life and normal psychological approach.

"With anybody with any disease - alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders - relapse is a possibility.

"But not if you're given a programme that will work.

"It's a day-to-day thing, but I really seriously doubt I will relapse."

It is "the final step back to complete normality".

author: Errol Kiong

New Zealand Herald


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