Kim Rollins is 36 and has suffered from the eating disorder anorexia since she was 15. At her lowest weight she was five stone and has had two strokes and a heart attack due to malnutrition.
Having exhausted all of the conventional treatment methods, Kim, from Ontario in Canada, was relieved to be approached by a group of doctors who were researching a technique called deep brain stimulation and whether or not it could be used to treat eating disorder patients.
The concept behind deep brain stimulation (DBS) is to block abnormal nerve signals that trigger anorexic thought patterns. Although Kim was apprehensive about the surgery, she knew at that point she had little choice.
How DBS works
Patients who have DBS are fitted with a neurostimulator, which is a small device (similar to a pacemaker) that connects to electrodes placed on certain parts of the brain. The implant is connected to a small battery which is inserted under the skin in the chest or abdomen to generate a small electrical signal which then stimulates the brain.
When the device is switched on, abnormal nerve signals that trigger disordered thoughts about food are blocked. This technique has also been used to treat people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain.
Talking about the results of the surgery Kim has said: “When the pacemaker was switched on, it was surreal how my thoughts towards food just changed, as if someone had flicked a switch. Suddenly the thought of eating a meal didn’t fill me with anxiety or guilt.”
As part of Kim’s recovery she continues to see a therapist and dietician who is teaching her to enjoy food again. Over a year has gone by since the surgery and Kim is now at a healthy weight and is studying for a Master’s degree in political science.
Hypnotherapy aims to help eating disorder patients in a similar way to DBS, without the need for surgery. To find out if this could be an option for you, please see our Eating Disorders page.
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