Horizon: The Ghost in Your Genes
BBC Two’s Horizon program The Ghost in Your Genes features the episode about a breakthrough in genetics. Scientists noticed that the same errors in genes could be manifested in different illnesses, and a branch of science that studies the changes in gene expressions is called epigenetics. According to the conventional biology, genetic inheritance is set in stone at the moment of our conception when we receive genes from our mothers and fathers. However, there are cases when the same faulted gene causes different diseases. For example, a key sequence deleted from chromosome 15 causes both Angelman and Prader-Willi syndromes. The inherent diseases depend on the parents. Scientists found out that what disease a child develops depend on who of the parents lent the faulted gene. However, how the chromosome knew that it came from the mother or the father? Thus, the gene should be marked somehow. That idea had shown that there was more to the inheritance than just a sequence of DNA. Genes have a memory from where they come from, and the activity of genes is controlled by switches. With new findings, the science of inheritance has been turned upside down.
Next, scientists discovered that genes can be affected by the environment. For example, IVF can switch on faulty genes and the altered genome is passed to the embryo. The research findings showed that the epigenetic switch that was on in one generation was clearly present in the next generation. This means that the genes are not locked away, and if a parent experiences something the effect from it can be passed down the line. Marcus Pembrey, a Professor of Clinical Genetics at the Institute of Child Health in London speculates why genes pass memory from one generation to another “Imprinting could be used for adoptions to pass information from the mother to her baby in the next generation.”
Together with the Swedish researcher Lars Olov Bygren, Pembrey researched the data from a Sweden village that kept all its records about births, deaths, and, what is more important, harvests. Being a remote village it was particularly vulnerable to famine. The findings about the effects of stress being transmitted from grandparents to their children and grandchildren are consistent with the observations of Professor Rachel Yehuda, Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Professor noticed that children of holocaust survivors also suffered from stress by being affected indirectly. It was attributed to their listening to the stories about holocaust. However, the scientists found evidence that in fact, the stress response was epigenetic. It happens at the late stages of pregnancy. Moreover, the findings were confirmed by the effects of stress found in the children whose mothers were in the late months of pregnancy at the time of the 9/11 attack. However, in order to have this theory ultimately proven. the same effect should be found in the children of 9/11.
In case of famine, the scientists found that it could affect people many years after it took place even if they personally were not exposed. It was determined that the transgeneration response due to environmental causes could be triggered only at certain sensitive periods. The timing of this sensitive period was tied to the formation of eggs and sperm. Thus, the grandmother appeared susceptible when she still was in the womb while the grandfather was affected just before in his puberty.
The above mentioned findings are very important for the better understanding of diseases and ways of treatment. At the moment, there are many diseases such as Alzheimer which are not very well explained in terms of current genetics and can be caused by epigenetic switches. In the planetary way, this knowledge can be extremely useful to help people think not only about themselves but about their immediate children and grandchildren as well.
Miracle Cure: A Decade of the Human Genome
BBC Documentary Miracle Cure: A Decade of the Human Genome explains how the remarkable breakthrough in cracking the human genetic code was applied further to find cures for genetic diseases. Through examples of three participants, the documentary illustrates the process of developing new important treatments that are expected by numerous sufferers. Sophie, 22, battles with cystic fibrosis (CF) that affects lungs and pancreas. Emma has inherited from her mother a rare kind of breast cancer, hence, at the age of 36 has already been treated three times from it. Tom, 40, suffers from alcoholism and believes it is in his genes.
The human genome is a sequence of four chemicals or letters that make 3.6 billion of them. Mistakes in the order of these letters can lead to illness. The most common genetic diseases are caused by multiple faults on dozens or even hundreds of genes all interacting with the environment. The participants visit laboratories and research centers asking how scientists can cure their conditions with the help of the new scientific findings. At the moment, scientists develop methods of gene therapy to be able to identify a single mutated gene that does not do its job properly and insert another gene into the cell to do the job instead. Thus, scientists will be able to develop the so-called personalized treatments to target the specific genetic disorders. They expect that some diseases targeted treatment will be available within the next decade.
Ten years ago scientists were surprised at how few genes they discovered in DNA but it became clear that fewer did not mean less complicated. It was the activity of the genes and the way they work together the scientists have to understand. For Emma, Professor Michael Stratton explains how the treatment from cancer is developed. At the laboratory, the cancer and the normal gene are extracted from the same patient. They are sequenced and compared. Professor Stratton says that the traditional chemo therapy is a thing of the past and soon the so-called personalized medicine will become available. It takes fifteen years for any treatment to make it from an initial idea through the trial stages into the doctor’s cabinet. After a decade of intensive research, a new order of medicine is entering the final stage of its trials. Emma is emotional because she understands that her son Jamie will be able to use new scientific achievements in his life. Professor Alan Ashworth found the Achilles’ heel of cancer. He explains that they found out that cancer cells do not care about repairing their DNA properly, thus, the drug Professor Ashworth is working at inhibits the ability of cells to repair naturally appearing defects in DNA. At a low concentration, healthy cells are able to survive while cancer cells die.
Sophie meets a nine-year old boy Rees who had his gene condition cured by an injection of healthy cells into spinal fluid. Unfortunately, scientists are still to design an injection that will cure Sophie’s cystic fibrosis.
Like heart disease and many other conditions, alcoholism is caused by mistakes on many genes and their interaction with the environment. Tom visits a Medical Research Council to observe the behavior of mice with changed genes. One of the mice had one letter in its genetic code changed and now it is called an alco-mouse because it prefers alcohol to water. The laboratory employee explains that when there is a choice most mice would choose pure water while the alco-mouse chooses 10 per cent alcohol 85 per cent of its daily fluid intake. This information gave Tom a tremendous insight in his condition. Scientists have discovered that humans can have an alcoholism gene that is associated with an increased risk of alcohol dependency.
Many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, or alcoholism and others are genetically very complex and consist of many genes interacting in different environments with each other. While scientists were able to sequence the human genome, now they need to learn how to understand it.
The Human Face: Face to Face
The Human Face is a four-part BBC documentary aired in 2001 starring John Cleese, David Attenborough, and Elizabeth Hurley. The first part of Face to Face examines how much seeing a human faces is important for people and what facial expressions reveal about humans.
Facial expressions connect us with other people and can even make us feel better. Human face can exhibit over seven thousands of facial expressions. The face consists of forty four muscles and two bones namely the scull and the jaw. However, unlike other parts of the body, these muscles are not attached to the bones, hence, they are able to move freely. Therefore, those people who are unable to make the usual facial expressions of happiness, sadness, anger and so on, have difficulties in socialization. Apart from having facial expressions, people need to be able to read them correctly. Autistic people have difficulties with it and have to learn the contractions of what muscles mean what emotion. Marital couples can have problems in their marriages if they only listen to the words their spouses say but do not read their facial expressions. Professor Gottman claims that the emotion of contempt on the face of one of the partners most likely means a divorce in the future. However, if an individual registers such an emotion and begins working with it the relationship can be improved.
Smiles are usually easy to fake. One needs to tight the cheek muscles. However, a genuine smile can be produced only if a person is sincerely pleased. A forty-year study revealed that an ability to smile genuinely at the moment of taking a photograph can predict the future happiness of a person. Three women photographed for the year book in 1960 were asked questions about their life forty years later. The only woman who smiled both with her mouth and her eyes was happily married. Others who had forced smiles when their eyes remain unsmiling were divorced or unmarried.
Famous psychologist Paul Eckmann studies how much facial expressions can reveal that a person is lying. Making an experiment with people who professionally have to see liars, Eckmann found out that they were not able to pick liars. Only secret agents scored 80 percent because they knew about signs of concealment called micro expressions. They last about 1/25 of a second while a normal expression lasts half a second to three seconds.
In Japan, expressing feelings used to be frowned upon. Nowadays, some elder people may hire smile specialists to teach them how to smile the Western way. The Japanese tradition prescribed to smile slightly without showing their teeth. The Japanese retailers discovered that they can boost their sales by smiling more often. Therefore, companies want to hire smile specialists to teach their employees how to smile properly and sell more effectively. Meanwhile in India, people believe that laughter is the best medicine and really practice it in laughter groups that gather every morning to laugh heartily for 15 minutes. The scientists found out that the body does not see the difference between forced and real laughter. Therefore, laughter exercises are beneficial in any case. In India, laughter specialists are invited to the prisoners to relieve their stress.
Nowadays, people interact with others less while using electronic technologies more. Robot Kismet was made to help alone people enrich their lives away from social interaction. The authors of the documentary doubt that computers can substitute real human facial feedback. The lack of facial feedback is also believed to be at the base of the phenomenon called road rage. It usually does not happen to pedestrians. The theory behind it is that pedestrians are able to exchange little signs of apology which are impossible to see when confined in the cars. The same misunderstanding is possible in emails and any other interactions when people’s faces are not seen. That is the reason why smile icons were introduced into the online correspondence.
The conclusion of the program is that while the modern world is so involved into technologies, it is still important to communicate face to face with other people.
Dr. Phil Show: My Schizophrenic Child
That episode of Dr. Phil show features Jani Schofield, a ten-year old girl who shows signs of schizophrenia with hallucinations and suicidal tendencies. Since three, Jani has begun to prefer her imaginary friends to real people. Jani has had tactile and visual hallucinations. At six, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Jani’s mother says that her daughter has over one hundred of imaginary animals, people, and numbers in her imaginary land Calalina, or Roxy. Some of the hallucinations tell her what to do and how to act. Seeing that their daughter is not able to make friends, Jani’s parents Susan and Michael agreed to have another baby. When Jani was four, Bodey was born. At the age of one and a half, Bodey was diagnosed with autism. Now the parents’ biggest fear is that Bodey can be diagnosed with schizophrenia as well. On minute 12 of Dr. Phil show, Jani’s mother Susan revealed that schizophrenia was running in the family and they knew about it.
Jani is very energetic. When viewing the footage shot with Dr. Phil, Jani’s parents say that she was heavily medicated then. However, it is difficult to tell as Jani looks very active. Naturally raising children with such mental difficulties is challenging and puts a strain on the parents’ relationship. Susan and Michael confess that sometimes they hate each other, but at the same time, they have a great empathy. Michael reveals that at some point he almost had an affair. He allowed himself to kiss a girl he liked hoping that it could help him forget his troubles at home. Susan said that she forgave him but did not forget it.
At the end of the show, Dr. Phil presented Michael’s book January First that tells about the experience of raising a child who suffers from schizophrenia.
Another studio guest is a mother whose adult daughter Ashley is schizophrenic and self-medicates herself with dangerous street drugs. Ashley was diagnosed at eight. Having been hallucinating since eight she saw severed bodies, dead people, and sometimes other scary things. Ashley refused to take the medicines she was prescribed because they made her feel unwell. Thus, she started drinking and self-medicated herself with marijuana and ecstasy pills. When being on the show, Ashley reveals that at the moment she has no place to live, does heroine every day, and earns some money by being a middleman for people who want to buy drugs. Ashley says that she is unable to take prescribed drugs because now she does not have a stable home and it is difficult to stick to the medication schedule when you do not know where you sleep this night.
Ashley’s mother Lisa confesses that as a young mother she used to have a history of alcohol and drug abuse. She used to take Ashley to drug houses and leave her there while she went for the dose. At the age of nine, Ashley was molested there. Ashley says that she feels she was robbed of her childhood and her mother is a person to blame for her mental illness and drug addiction. Lisa says that despite being against drugs now she buys Ashley heroine daily just to help her through one day at a time. Ashley has a four-year old daughter Emma. After having been jailed for DUI, Emma’s dad filed for full custody and now Ashley prepares to appear at court to fight for a partial custody. At the end of the show, Dr. Phil offers medical care for Ashley.
Schizophrenia: Stolen Minds, Stolen Lives
Discovery Channel’s documentary on schizophrenia focuses on personal histories of people who suffer from it. Schizophrenia is a very complicated disease. Doctors only know the symptoms but not why it strikes and how to stop it. Professor Stephen Vincent explains that schizophrenia is a uniquely human disorder and affects 1% of the population worldwide. One out of 100 children fall a victim. Most often it strikes between 15 and 30 years of age.
In order to find the cause of the disease, Professor Vincent studies the difference between a healthy brain and a brain that is affected. The findings are inconsistent. When viewed under a microscope, it is virtually impossible to distinguish the brain with schizophrenia from one with a normal tissue. Professor Vincent says “Science is showing us that difference is at the level of brain wiring and brain chemistry.” In brains with schizophrenia, the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are often abnormal. However, these are not the only reasons for schizophrenia. Increasingly the scientists attribute some of these problems to the irregularities in the structural organization of brain cells, patterns first established during fetus brain development. Any errors at the second trimester have lasting repercussions. Neurons are interconnected probably at different patterns.
Magnetic resonance imaging is used to create detailed images of the living brain at the process of information. Circuits in the brain affected with schizophrenia communicate with one another in the wrong way. Because of the misconnecting people receive wrong information, hear voices when they should not, or misinterpret what they see. Scientists believe that problems are in part genetic. During prenatal brain development, when neurons are being generated and migrated to their final positions and form canals, something goes wrong and later it may result in schizophrenia. However, genetics is only part of causes that inflict schizophrenia.
To better understand what causes schizophrenia, scientists have studied pairs of twins, one of which suffers from the disease. They found out that having one parent with schizophrenia, the twins have one in 8 chance of inheriting the disease. Only one of the twins develops it. Therefore, it is more than just genetic. The environment has its influence as well. Comparing MRI results of the brains of the identical twins Sean and Stephen Farooq Ahmad, MD explains that they have structural differences. Sean who developed schizophrenia has a smaller size of the brain, more water and less grey matter, and enlarged and asymmetrical ventricles, which is one of the primary signs of schizophrenia.
Insanity is an ancient infliction. It was attributed to the imbalance of the four fluids. In the Dark Ages, people began to believe that the devil inflicted it. Numbers of mentally ill people, mostly women, were burnt on the stake or locked away at asylums and prisons. By the 19th century, mental illness became the subject of study. Yet, the treatment did not become more productive than before. With the birth of psychiatry the disease of paranoia, withdrawal, and hallucination were defined and named schizophrenia – the infliction of the fragmented mind. In 1951, with the discovery of neuroleptic drugs, a breakthrough came. This powerful medication diminishes the experiences of psychosis.
Francine Benes, MD, PhD explains that the reason why people inflicted with schizophrenia try to withdraw and shut out the world is because external experiences are very overwhelming and unable to distinguish them from their own thoughts, which contributes to hallucinations. Victims of schizophrenia experience hallucinations as real because their brain tells them that they are real. It is very difficult for a person to force himself or herself out of the hallucinatory world. It demands a strong mind. An example of such an extraordinary person is John F. Nash, a distinguished mathematician and a Nobel Prize winner. The movie A Beautiful Mind is loosely based on his battle with schizophrenia.
Doctor Liebermann says that it is very rare when a persona is correctly and quickly diagnosed and is optimally treated for the remaining life. Often, people do not know what happens to them or are embarrassed to tell about it as the condition is highly stigmatized in the society. Denial is the first reaction to the onset of schizophrenia. 50% of people suffering from schizophrenia will attempt suicide, 10% of them will succeed. Doctor Liebermann explains, “The longer a person remains actively symptomatic, the more time disease has to progress and damage has to accumulate in the brain, the less responsive is treatment and the poorer the prognosis becomes.”
Professor Vincent offers to introduce preventive treatment before the onset of the disease. However, he agrees that the idea to cure somebody from what they do not have yet is controversial. Meanwhile Diana Perkins, MD, MPH believes that the treatment of the very first episodes of symptoms can prevent the onset of the illness. Although a half of patients with basic symptoms will never experience them again, the other half is on the road to the full blown psychosis. However, it is still unknown how long people should stay on medication and whether it is reasonable to commit to the life-long usage of medication after just one schizophrenic episode.
Nowadays, victims of schizophrenia are better treated, can be earlier diagnosed, and are included into the communities. However, they remain the prisoners of their own minds and the ultimate cure is still to be found.
The Adult Brain: To Think by Feeling
The Adult Brain: To Think by Feeling is Episode 4 of the five-part documentary The Secret Life of the Brain (2002) that concentrates on human brain development through adulthood. That episode stresses the importance of emotions for human beings. People used to think about themselves as thinking machines while in fact, people are feeling machines that can think. Emotions are produced by structural systems of the brain which can be damaged due to a trauma and then a person is unable to feel. It means that a part of the brain still produces emotions but the signals to feel them are not perceived by the part of the brain that is in charge of it. The inability to feel results in psychological problems and challenges both for the sufferers and their families.
James McGaugh explains that all emotions serve a purpose, even the negative ones. Fear indicates that the organism has to be taken out of danger; thus, the result is that the animal rapidly runs away from the predator or freezes to become ‘invisible.’ Problems arise when emotions persist for a longer time than they should. For example, in case of post-traumatic disorder people experience the emotions of fear they had at the moment of the accident again and again. The physiological process behind it is the following. Threat and fear are perceived by a small area of the brain called amygdala that sends signals to the body, thus, muscles tense, hormones are resealed, blood tension is increased. Such response was designed by evolution to let people stay alive. The amygdala works like an early warning system alerting people to a possible danger. The cortex works together with the amygdala interpreting the signals and reasoning whether the fear was caused by real fearful subjects or events (such as a snake on the pathway) or it was just imagined (like a stick on the pathway that looks like a snake). In post-traumatic disorders, the cortex cannot discern between the right and wrong causes of fear. At the moment of terror (it can be any noise), the amygdala sets off a number of reactions and triggers a release of adrenalin in the body sending stress hormones into the blood etching the memory of a stressful situation deep into our memory, thus, we could avoid similar situations. In people with PTD, a repeatedly activated amygdala and a rush of adrenaline etch the memories deeper and deeper. Scientists presupposed that blocking adrenaline from rushing into the blood system can prevent the traumatic memories to become too strong. In the experiment, the patients that were admitted to emergency rooms after accidents were given a shot of beta blocking drugs that neutralize the effect of the adrenaline on the body during flashbacks. Beta blockers stop the wicked cycle. The memory about the trauma stays but the impact is not so strong.
Another disease that is linked to the inability to feel some emotions is depression. Depression is a very complicated disease with unclear pattern, unlike Alzheimer disease or Parkinson’s disease. Doctors claim that so far they only have a collection of clinical symptoms. The brain activity in cases of depression reveals that the cortex with which we understand and engage with our world does not fully respond to the stream of signals of emotional messages sent by the emotional core of the brain. For a depressed person, the balance of emotions, feelings, reasoning, and thinking is upset.
Chronic depression seems to be running in the family. Also, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at childhood can make the brain more susceptible to stress and people more vulnerable to depression in later years. Scientists have found that people with depression often produce more stress hormones, cortisol. Chronic exposure for too long periods of time and large doses of this hormone which is absolutely harmless under normal circumstances – is poisonous for the brain.
It can be treated with antidepressants that affect the mood influencing chemical serotonin. Serotonin delivers messages from one synapsis to another. In case of depression, the quantity of serotonin goes down. Antidepressants increase it and help to regulate the mood. Higher levels of serotonin stimulate a cascade of reactions bringing the brain back into balance. Within weeks of taking antidepressants, the depression mysteriously vanishes. However, drugs do not cure the depression. They just relieve it. The brain periodically resists the antidepressants. Dosages must be increased. Different drugs must be found. People with severe depressions need antidepressants for their whole life to keep functioning. In fact, drug therapy should be considered as an opportunity to use the time free from depression to find other ways of coping with it.
Genie: Secret of the Wild Child
The 1994 Nova documentary Secret of the Wild Child narrates about a girl, Genie, found in 1970 in the suburbs of Los Angeles, CA. The child was locked in a room to a potty chair for most of her 13 years of life. Her parents were charged with child abuse. Genie was taken to children’s hospital and became a very interesting case for scientists to test different developmental theories. They hoped that the nurturing environment will be able to erase the negative impact of an awful past.
When Genie was admitted in hospital, she had characteristic ‘bunny’ walk, constantly spit and clawed, and barely spoke or made any noises. The doctors assumed that she was beaten for making noise and learnt to be silent most of the time. A number of doctors were assigned to observe Genie. Their prime task was to determine whether Genie’s brain was damaged due to neglect or she was born retarded. According to Genie’s sleep study, her brain activity exhibited an abnormal pattern. The doctors assumed that most probably Genie’s parents found her retarded and decided to keep her isolated because of that. Genie’s mother claimed that she became nearly blind due to her domineering husband. Genie’s father killed himself shortly after Genie was discovered by the authorities.
Genie was not the only case of a wild child. 200 years ago, a mute and naked boy was found in a cave in Southern France. He was called Victor. The child who had habits of a wild animal knew no language. Presupposing that he can learn it, Victor was enrolled into a school and a physician was hired to assist him. In 1970, a movie was shot about him by Fran?ois Truffaut. The staff working with Genie also watched the movie and was profoundly inspired by it.
Noam Chomsky claimed that we acquire language not because we are taught it but because we are born with the principles of it. We have language in our genes by nature but not by nurture. However, neurologists insist that there is a deadline for applying our knowledge of language. Eric Lenneberg said, “If a first language is acquired by puberty it may be too late.” Therefore, Gene’s case could prove or contradict Lenneberg’s assumption.
A few specialists constantly had been working with Genie. Linguists Susan Curtiss and Jane Butler taught Genie language while David Rigler, a psychologist worked with Genie’s emotional development. Genie’s psychologist James Kent was concerned that with many people around Genie would not be able to form single dependable relationships, which is extremely important for mental and physical health. Kent set out to be her surrogate parent and was present around at breakfast, when she went to bed, when she had physical tests, and so on. Genie’s progress in language learning raised hopes about a total recovery.
After a short period of power struggle over who is going to be in charge for Genie’s development, David Rigler and his wife became foster parents for Genie. Seeing that Genie had silence rage fits when she attacked her body she was taught how to have proper fits with door slamming and stomping her feet. Eventually, Genie learnt how to turn her anger into words. Genie’s progress in the language development allowed her to speak about her time at her parent’s house before words were part of her world.
Susan Curtiss kept checking Genie’s progress in language development. At the age of 14, Genie was able to read simple words. Passing through puberty, Genie seemed to be acquiring language as scientists could not have assumed. Curtiss began to doubt that there is a deadline for learning a language. In the story of l’enphant sauvage, Victor could not reach success in language learning and never learnt how to speak. He died at the age of 40 on the streets of Paris in 1828. Genie’s caregivers did not want the same end for her. Rigler tried not to emphasize spoken speech and began teaching Genie sign language. While Rigler had been a great foster parent for Genie and documented many videos with her and supervised a lot of tests he had never clearly defined his own research.
Specialists who supervised Genie were divided in their opinions as to Genie’s mental condition whether she was mentally retarder from birth or not. Because of scientific ambiguity of Genie’s case the project researching Genie was stopped being funded. That year Rigler and his wife decided to stop being Genie’s foster parents. By 1975, most of researches on Genie were completed. As for Genie’s language development, Curtiss concluded that while being able to convey messages and emotions Genie was not able to speak grammatically correct English. That year Genie returned to live with her mother who was acquitted of child abuse charges.
Genie’s mother wanted to take care of her daughter but soon found that it was difficult. A series of foster homes followed where Genie was abused and harassed. As a result, a law suit was filed by Genie’s mother against the doctors of Children’s Hospital where Genie used to be kept. Due to a punishment for vomiting at one of her foster homes, Genie regressed to a pre-language stage when she was silent and since then could express herself only with signs. Currently, Genie lives at an adult foster home which is approximately her sixth foster home since the research project ended.
The ethical dilemma for scientists in that case should be either to study Genie or take care of her. When these two tasks are combined in one person, it is very difficult to accomplish it. Apart from the language development, Genie’s case can teach scientists about rewards and risks for conducting the forbidden experiments.
I’m a Boy-Anorexic
Being part of a 2006 BBC documentary I’m a Child Anorexic, the episode I’m a Boy-Anorexic focuses on boys who suffer from the disease which is believed by the majority of people to be ‘a girl illness.’
Anorexia is considered to be a common eating disorder for teenage girls. However, one in ten sufferers is a boy. It is difficult to diagnose it in boys as the loss of weight in boys is usually attributed to other causes. At some point of the disease, a child’s body begins to shut down, the internal organs are in danger of failing, and a child of anorexia is no longer able to help himself. The first priority is to make sure that the child eats his regular meals. Children with anorexia feel guilty about eating so at Rhodes Farm clinic, they are monitored at mealtimes to make sure they eat enough. If a child’s weight drops below a marked line that charts the progress privileges are taken away from that child. In case of reaching a certain point of progress a child is rewarded with an outing with his parents.
At Rhodes Farm clinic, boys of anorexia tell that at school they were mocked for their heavy weight or chubby cheeks. Simply wanting to lose a few stones children are often carried away and cannot stop losing weight. Feeling low about themselves or being taunted by peers people with anorexia usually feel that the only thing they can control is their weight. The youngest child at Rhodes Farm is 11 year old Warren who completely stopped eating four months before being admitted to the clinic.
Treatments at Rhodes Farm last from 3 to 6 months. Children have lessons at the clinic and weekly psychological therapy in groups and with their families. When the boys leave the facilities, the responsibility for their calorie control falls to their parents. Parents have lists of calories intake their children are obliged to have daily and how many calories what food item contains. Parents are expected to be cooperative with the clinic staff. When the children leave the clinic, the parents are to monitor their daily intake and file reports. When coming back home children need to learn anew to trust their parents with food choices. Removed from the support of Rhodes Farm children need to learn to cope with stresses of their lives on their own. If a child’s weight plummets below the line he goes back to the clinic. Eventually children need to learn to control themselves, their eating habits, and daily food intake.
The major aim of the clinic is not to keep children until they are mentally well but until they are physically well. After reaching some stable point at their weight gain children are sent home to get well mentally among their family and friends. The battle with anorexia is never finished. One in five sufferers is never recovered.