Eugenia Cooney ( PART 03 ): World's Worst Case Of Anorexia, Rachael Farrokh, Opens Up
25 February 2019
Joshua B. Ek talks to the world's worst case of Anorexia with the goal to find answers to all the questions people have about this horrible disease.
Rachael Farrokh was down to just 18kg ( 40lb ) when she managed to get the medical treatment that saved her life, but her weight was too low for virtually all hospitals.
But thanks to pledges from more than 5,000 donors on GoFundMe, Rachael and her husband Rod found the money for her treatment to help Rachael builds up her strength by slowly increasing her calorie intake.
Rod had to quit his job to become her 24-hour caregiver but things are turning around...
There is no conclusive evidence that any particular treatment for anorexia nervosa works better than others; however, there is enough evidence to suggest that early intervention and treatment are more effective. Treatment for anorexia nervosa tries to address three main areas.
- Restoring the person to a healthy weight;
- Treating the psychological disorders related to the illness;
- Reducing or eliminating behaviours or thoughts that originally led to the disordered eating.
Although restoring the person's weight is the primary task at hand, optimal treatment also includes and monitors behavioral change in the individual as well. There is some evidence that hospitalisation might adversely affect long term outcome.
Psychotherapy for individuals with AN is challenging as they may value being thin and may seek to maintain control and resist change. Some studies demonstrate that family based therapy in adolescents with AN is superior to individual therapy.
Treatment of people with AN is difficult because they are afraid of gaining weight. Initially developing a desire to change may be important.
Diet is the most essential factor to work on in people with anorexia nervosa, and must be tailored to each person's needs. Food variety is important when establishing meal plans as well as foods that are higher in energy density. People must consume adequate calories, starting slowly, and increasing at a measured pace. Evidence of a role for zinc supplementation during refeeding is unclear.
Family-based treatment (FBT) has been shown to be more successful than individual therapy for adolescents with AN. Various forms of family-based treatment have been proven to work in the treatment of adolescent AN including conjoint family therapy (CFT), in which the parents and child are seen together by the same therapist, and separated family therapy (SFT) in which the parents and child attend therapy separately with different therapists. Proponents of family therapy for adolescents with AN assert that it is important to include parents in the adolescent's treatment.
A four- to five-year follow up study of the Maudsley family therapy, an evidence-based manualized model, showed full recovery at rates up to 90%. Although this model is recommended by the NIMH, critics claim that it has the potential to create power struggles in an intimate relationship and may disrupt equal partnerships.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is useful in adolescents and adults with anorexia nervosa; acceptance and commitment therapy is a type of CBT, which has shown promise in the treatment of AN. Cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) is used in treating anorexia nervosa.
Pharmaceuticals have limited benefit for anorexia itself.
Admission to Hospitals
AN has a high mortality and patients admitted in a severely ill state to medical units are at particularly high risk. Diagnosis can be challenging, risk assessment may not be performed accurately, consent and the need for compulsion may not be assessed appropriately, refeeding syndrome may be missed or poorly treated and the behavioural and family problems in AN may be missed or poorly managed. The MARSIPAN guidelines recommend that medical and psychiatric experts work together in managing severely ill people with AN.
The rate of refeeding can be difficult to establish, because the fear of refeeding syndrome (RFS) can lead to underfeeding. It is thought that RFS, with falling phosphate and potassium levels, is more likely to occur when BMI is very low, and when medical comorbidities such as infection or cardiac failure, are present. In those circumstances, it is recommended to start refeeding slowly but to build up rapidly as long as RFS does not occur. Recommendations on energy requirements vary, from 5–10 kcal/kg/day in the most medically compromised patients, who appear to have the highest risk of RFS to 1900 kcal/day.