Anorexia treatment focuses on couples

CHAPEL HILL When Margie Hodgin developed anorexia at age 40, her husband, Tom Hodgin felt asolated and confused.

"For me, there was a lot of resentment from the unknown," Tom said. "I wanted to help, I didn't know how to help."

After tryinig many treatments, the Hodgins ended up at UNC's School of Medicine.

The school offers a clinical trial through its eating disorders program. The study, Uniting Couples in the Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa (UCAN), focuses on couples therapy.

"It has really helped in every aspect of a marriage, a relationship, and parenting especially, and that was really important to us -- to get more united," Margie said.

Tom went on to describe how it helped him understand what his wife was experiencing. "It has helped me separate the disease from Margie, where I can learn to not like the disease," he said. "I understand it more."

Researchers say they are finding that treating couples rather than just the anorexic patient is helpful for recovery.

Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D, is the director of the eating disorders program.

"One of the things that we have found is that partners are at a complete loss when it comes to what do i do when my partner stops eating," Bulik said. "So, what we are really trying to do is give them the tools they need. To know, what do I say or what do I do when my loved one suffers from anorexia nervosa?"

Bulik said the bottom line is by treating couples, doctors can focus on a quicker recovery.

The Hodgins say treating them as a couple was key in Margie's ability to overcome anorexia.

"But it helped me realize that the disease is not Margie," Tom explained. "Margy is still the same girl I married, she's still my girl, and I love her very much."

The UCAN clinical trial is still looking for patients.

For more about the program and how to apply, click here.

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