Centre to tackle eating disorders

The country’s first residential centre dedicated to treating patients suffering from life-threatening eating disorders opened its doors today.

Lois Bridges will focus on targeting the causes behind an eating disorder when it take its first set of clients in March.

Health chiefs estimate 200,000 Irish people suffer from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating with about 400 new cases emerging each year.

Food disorders also account for 80 deaths annually.

Teresa Moorhead, director of clinical services Lois Bridges, said everything a hospital can provide will be given in a non-hospital setting.

“Here we want the cause and not just the symptom, we want to get t the bottom of what us causing it,” she said.

“Our ethos is to provide a comprehensive and intensive programme.”

The six-bed renovated house in Sutton, north Dublin, will offer seven-day-a-week medical care and relaxation therapies to over 18s with some of the most severe cases in the country.

Medical care includes psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, social work, family therapy and dietetic fields while clients will be encouraged to embrace their spiritual side through light yoga, Thai chi, Indian head massage and relaxation.

Treatment, which can last four to eight weeks, costs €4,500 a week.

Ms Moorhead said talks are ongoing with health insurance companies about covering treatment at the unit, which has approved centre status from the Mental Health Commission of Ireland.

Leading psychiatrist and international academic, Professor Janet Treasure, launched Lois Bridges to mark National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

She said there was an urgent need to get a coherent eating disorder treatment service in Ireland as some patients currently travel to the UK for treatment.

“We have people come to us and then trying to connect back to their family afterwards. It definitely isn’t ideal,” said Prof Treasure, an expert in the field of eating disorders for over 20 years.

Residential treatment is already available through psychiatric settings in St Patrick’s and St John of God, where there is a three-month waiting list for 15 beds dedicated to eating disorders.

However the Department of Health’s vision-for-change document recommended four years ago that 24 more beds were needed across Ireland.

Prof Treasure warned the onset of eating disorders usually begins at 15 years and can progress fast unless there is quick intervention.

“Weight can often go down very quickly because the individual themselves very rarely understands what’s happening to them or understands that they’re ill,” she continued.

“They can easily disguise their problem by covering up either weight loss or their not eating so it can get people unaware.”

The consultant, of Kings College London and South London and Maudsley Hospital, said concerned parents should take note of teens who suddenly make excuses not to eat with others, become less social or who become a perfectionist about academic work or exercise.

“We know there’s a variety of things that make the risk more common such as generic factors or events in childhood or exposure to stress, but the triggering factors can be quite small – or events in life like death or upset,” she continued.

“It is a question of interaction between events and vulnerability.”

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