Not Horsing Around: Using Equine Therapy For Eating Disorders

It’s possible that some of you are already rolling your eyes: I know my audience. In the calls for evidence-based treatment, alternative therapies are often sidelined, deemed less important or less effective. While I certainly see that side of the argument, and would advocate for a continued search for treatment efficacy, I’m not ready to abandon the search for alternative approaches. Especially when used in concert with other treatments, I find alternative therapies very intriguing, partially for what they tell us about the complexity of treating eating disorders.

In a recent study, Lac, Marble & Boie (2013) explored the use of equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) for eating disorders. Keep in mind that as is the case with many alternative therapies, the article is based on a case study, rather than a large-scale clinical trial. To me, the point of these types of articles is to get … Continue reading →

Not So Fast: Is There a Connection Between Religious Fasting and Eating Disorders?

I’ve always wondered about how being encouraged to fast for religious reasons might impact those who are vulnerable to eating disorders and those who already have eating disorders. I can’t imagine it would be easy to be around others who were fasting in the name of religion while struggling with an eating disorder. Equally, I can certainly see the dangers of participating in fasting for those who are predisposed to eating disorders.

Despite not being religious myself, however, I understand that fasting is important to some people who subscribe to religions that encourage the practice. So, how might we balance the potential dangers of fasting with the freedom of religious observance? And, what is the impact of religious fasting on individuals with eating disorders, or those developing eating disorders?

In this post, I’ll highlight some of the main findings from 2 studies about religious fasting and eating disorders: one quantitative … Continue reading →

Impossible Binaries? Eating Disorders Among Trans Individuals

Recently I was doing some research for an upcoming (and very exciting)  endeavour that involves exploring eating disorders among LGBTQ individuals. As one does, I set about scouring the research literature in this area in the hopes of stumbling across some prior articles on which to hang my proverbial research hat.

As I sifted through the databases, however, my searches kept coming up short. After sending out a call to a list-serv enquiring about the state of the field in this area, I received many responses highlighting the gap that surrounds trans individuals in particular. While this is good news for arguing for the value in conducting research in this area, it is discouraging news when it comes to understanding and attending to the experiences of trans people with eating disorders.

All this is to say, it seems as though now is as good a time as any to dip … Continue reading →

Narrative Therapy and Eating Disorders: Help or Hype?

If you kick around the eating disorder recovery/treatment/research community for a while, you’re bound to come across someone calling their eating disorder “Ed.” In both the popular and scholarly literature around eating disorders, this externalizing and personifying approach has come to be quite popular. At face value, it makes sense to attribute blame for what can be an extremely difficult and painful experience to something other than oneself; it might be easier to “fight for recovery” if you have something to fight against.

But is there any evidence for the helpfulness of externalizing eating disorders? Who is “Ed,” and does “he” (or “she”) hold meaning for most or all sufferers? How might treatment programs make use of this construct in helping to facilitate clients’ recovery?

I will preface this post with a few disclaimers: firstly, I found a lot of solace in personifying my eating disorder early on in treatment … Continue reading →

Enraged by Sounds: Misophonia in Eating Disorder Patients (Clinicians, Listen Up)

Few people would claim to like the sound of chewing, lip smacking, or pen clicking. But while disliking these noises is commonplace, experiencing anxiety, panic and/or rage in response to them–a condition called misophonia (hatred of sound)–is not.

Well, truth be told, we don’t actually know how common it is: Searching “misophonia” in PubMed returns just 14 results. Seven were published in 2013/2014, and only three were published prior to 2010. (Searching “selective sensory sensitivity syndrome,” another name for “misophonia” wasn’t particularly fruitful either.)

Interestingly, the most recent paper on misophonia investigated the phenomenon in eating disorder patients. Timely, I thought, given that a few months ago someone had asked me about this very thing on Tumblr. At the time, I came up with nothing. Now I had something. So I posted it on the SEDs Tumblr. The response was almost immediate (click here to Continue reading →

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy for the “Difficult to Treat” Eating Disorder Patients

If there is anything we’ve learned over the  many years of eating disorder research, it is that eating disorders are extremely complex. Often, this complexity is intensified by comorbidities, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and “personality disorders.” Unfortunately, individuals whose disorders are labeled persistent, chronic, or “difficult to treat” may be even less likely to receive the treatment and support they require, deserve, and desire.

“Standard” approaches to eating disorder treatment, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), may prove ineffectual for these individuals. In a recent article, Federici & Wisniewski (2013) reflected on the difficulty of treating patients whose eating disorders are accompanied by other mental health issues. They noted that focusing on ED symptoms alone generally fails to achieve treatment goals, as behaviours associated with other disorders often decrease ED treatment effectiveness. This situation may leave both patients and clinicians feeling burnt out and unsatisfied (to … Continue reading →

Eating Disorders in the Elderly

The first published case of a late-onset eating disorder (at the age of 40) was in 1930 by John M. Berkman. In 1936, John A. Ryle published a case study of an eating disorder in a 59-year-old woman. Just how common are eating disorders in late middle-age or elderly individuals?

One study of 475 community dwelling elderly women aged 60–70 years found that 3.8% met diagnostic criteria for eating disorders. A study of elderly Canadian women reported that symptoms of disordered eating were present in 2.6% of women aged 50–64 years, and in 1.8% of women aged 65 years or older (Gadalla, 2008). In an investigation of eating disorders in elderly outpatient males, a minority (11–19%) who were undernourished were found to have abnormal eating attitudes and body image, including inappropriate self-control around food (60%), unsuitable eating attitudes (26%), and distorted body image (3–52%) (Miller et al., 1991).

There … Continue reading →

Avoiding Refeeding Syndrome in Anorexia Nervosa

Refeeding syndrome (RS) is a rare but potentially fatal condition that can occur during refeeding of severely malnourished individuals (such as anorexia nervosa patients). After prolonged starvation, the body begins to use  fat and protein to produce energy because there are not enough carbohydrates. Upon refeeding, there’s a surge of insulin (because of the ingested carbohydrates) and a sudden shift from fat to carbohydrate metabolism. This sudden shift can lead to a whole set of problems that characterize the refeeding syndrome.

For example, one of the key features of RS is hypophosphotemia: abnormally low levels of phosphate in the blood. This occurs primarily because the insulin surge during food ingestion leads to a cellular uptake of phosphate. Phosphate is a very important molecule and its dysregulation affects almost every system in the body and can lead to “rhabdomyolysis, leucocyte dysfunction, respiratory failure, cardiac failure, hypotension, arrhythmias, seizures, coma, and … Continue reading →

Extreme Medical Negligence: Failure to Feed Patients with Anorexia Nervosa

They are crazy stories, really. It is hard to believe they are true.

A 28-year-old woman with anorexia nervosa complained about weakness and nausea following the insertion of a feeding tube. Her gastroenterologist sent her to the emergency room (ER). The woman was in the emergency room for two days without receiving any food. She was discharged home after she was told her lab tests and X-rays came back normal.  Unfortunately, her X-rays weren’t normal. Her gastroenterologist determined she had a bowel obstruction and sent her back to the hospital. She lost a substantial amount of weight in those 3 days.

A 26-year-old woman with a feeding tube was discharged prematurely from a residential facility. She began to feel dizzy and weak, and was admitted to a hospital. She did not receive any food for the 6 days she was there, despite extremely Continue reading →

Are All Anorexia Nervosa Patients Just Afraid of Being Fat? – Part 2

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (or literature on this topic) you know the answer is no. I’ve blogged about this before, but I think it is a topic that needs a lot more coverage because the myths that all anorexia nervosa patients are just afraid of being fat, that they lose weight just to be thin, and that thin models are to blame for AN are still very common.

As you’ll see, I am not claiming that this isn’t true for some patients. Instead, what I am claiming is that it is not true for all patients.

And a big personal goal of mine with this blog is to broad the conversation about eating disorders. Let’s get away from stereotypes and painting all anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa patients in the same light. Let’s instead have meaningful discussions about research on eating disorders, about … Continue reading →