Anorexia

Reporter: Mark Gibson

A year ago, Chloe weighed just 40 kilos.. the average weight of a 12 year old.. frighteningly thin for a woman who's 172 centimetres tall.. or five foot eight. "Starvation is such a good feeling when you're that sick with it." "That voice tells you that you're fat and that you're hideous."Chloe spent three months in a private clinic and put on 14 kilos.. but says it was a negative experience where she learnt every trick in the book.

"You know stash food, throw food under the tables, I was sitting next to a girl who would spit in her cup quite frequently, she'd put something in her mouth and then spit it back out." "Well I think she's very brave because it's a very hard thing to talk about, there's a lot of shame associated with having an eating disorder." University of WA psychology professor, Sue Byrne, says the vast majority of anorexia patients are adolescent women.. and their outlook isn't good."The sad news is at the moment less than half, around 40% of people, even those who have treatment will recover fully from anorexia nervosa, around 10 to 20% of people die."

"So Chloe what do you see when you look in the mirror? "Well at the moment I see myself as too thin, on the thin side, I notice my shoulders have got the bones visible." That's a big admission from someone who used to look in the mirror and see a monster.. but Chloe still weighs just 46 kilos. "Some days I can tell myself just eat everything, you're that one step closer to getting better and having a better life and going travelling, having a job but there's days where I'm just like I can't do it and it's still there and it's telling me that I'm disgusting and I don't deserve to live."

UWA researchers hope to unlock the anorexia mystery, with a world first study testing three new treatments. Sue Byrne says "They're all treatments that in recent years have begun to look like they're maybe promising and we want to test them out to find out which is the best and we want to gather more evidence so that when people come for treatment we can say yes, we have a treatment that we think might be helpful for you." They need 250 women aged over 18. "They'd be offered free out-patient treatment which would last for around about 10 months so people will attend 25 out-patient sessions."

Chloe is hoping for a breakthrough.. she says with obesity often in the news, overweight has become much more acceptable than under-weight. "An obese person can walk through a shopping centre and it's no big drama where a thin person can walk through and people sort of go well what's wrong with you." "Is it hard for you to look in the mirror?" "Um, some days it is, depending on my mood." Chloe still has a daily battle with her demons.. but hopes to help other young women overcome theirs."It doesn't just really affect you though, it affects everyone around you and I think it actually affects other people around you more than yourself because you get to that point where you just don't care anymore."

If you'd like to take part in the UWA anorexia study

UWA anorexia out-patient study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

email: treatmenttrial@psy.uwa.edu.au

phone: (08) 6488 3579

"It's not just I woke up and I want to be skinny, it goes much deeper than that." Chloe Hicks is a bright 21 year old woman, whose battle with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, nearly cost her her life. "Got so bad at the stage that even putting a pea into my stomach was just, yeah, horrible feeling, felt like I was failing the illness basically if I would eat something."