Reflections on BEDA Conference 2016

I spent the last weekend of October attending the Binge Eating Disorder Association Conference in San Francisco and it was awesome. I have attended several conferences over the past several years and each and every one fails to be inclusive. The discussion is always centred on the cisgender white straight middle to upper-middle class thin woman who suffers from anorexia. Every research presentation, every session, the same discussion just new material every conference.

Those involved in putting together BEDA this year decided to change the conversation and focus instead on diversity and including all the people that every other conference seems to leave out – and it was wonderful. Obviously I could not attend all of the sessions, so if you want more information check out the #BEDA2016 hashtag on Twitter.

It was clear from the opening session that this conference was going to be a completely different mood. This … Continue reading →

Smartphone Apps for the Treatment of Eating Disorders

As of January 2014, over 50% of adults in the United States own a smartphone; unsurprisingly, there has been a growth in the number of mobile applications (apps) aimed at providing health care services for various mental (and physical) health problems, including eating disorders. The purpose of mobile health technologies is to utilize the functionality of smartphones to deliver a wide range of health services, including providing psychoeducation, treatment services and/or recovery support.

POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF SMARTPHONE APPS FOR ED TREATMENT

When it comes to the treatment of EDs, there are many potential benefits of smartphone apps. Smartphone apps can potentially help increase access to treatment (if, for example, they link users to ED services), enhance treatment compliance and/or engagement, and support treatment “outside of the therapy office.” Apps may also be able to improve motivation by connecting individuals to others who are recovering from EDs.

Smartphone apps can increase access to … Continue reading →

Treating Severe Anorexia Nervosa in the Community

Can treatment for severe anorexia nervosa be delivered safely in a community setting? According to a recent paper by Calum Munro and colleagues (2014, open access), the answer is yes.

In 2001, a systematic review by Meads, Gold, and Burls found that inpatient treatment is not more or less effective than outpatient treatment for individuals with AN. Of course there will always be patients who will require inpatient care, but given the high cost, lack of clear efficacy, and known risks, it is important to ask if there are better options, particularly for a subgroup of individuals who may not need or may not benefit from inpatient care.

In their paper, Munro et al. describe a program that they’ve developed for treating individuals with severe AN in the community. The program is called the Anorexia Nervosa Intensive Treatment Team (ANITT) service. It is one … 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 →

The Art of Therapy: Using of Arts-Based Therapies in Eating Disorder Treatment

Arts-based therapies are often used to supplement more “traditional” eating disorder treatment protocols in various different settings, ranging from individual therapy to inpatient units. However, as Frisch, Franko & Herzog (2006) note, no published research provides empirical support for the use of arts-based therapies for eating disorder treatment.

You might be wondering: if there is no empirical support, why are clinicians still using these therapeutic practices? You might also be wondering why I’ve chosen to dissect an article from 2006.

I’ll address the first question in this post (teaser: it’s really hard to say!). As for my delving back into the depths of academia, there is surprisingly little literature that touches on arts-based therapy, despite its continued use. This article provides an overview of why this might be, and where we can go from here.

WHAT IS ARTS-BASED THERAPY?

Arts therapy is an umbrella term used to refer … Continue reading →

Dancing Your Way to Recovery from Anorexia Nervosa

The idea of including dance and movement in interventions for eating disorders may seem somewhat controversial; generally, exercise and physical activity are discouraged for individuals recovering from eating disorders. Including dance in therapeutic interventions might raise a few eyebrows given the links between appearance-oriented athletic endeavors such as ballet and gymnastics and the development of eating disorders.

However, some therapists and scholars interested in alternative therapies for eating disorders have suggested that certain forms of movement therapy may help individuals with eating disorders connect to their bodies in a different, more positive way.

In 2011, two such scholars from Portugal, Padrão & Coimbra, published a 6-month pilot intervention for individuals hospitalized for anorexia nervosa (AN) based around body movement.

Their aims were twofold:

  1. Find out more about the links between body movement and bodily experience in individuals with AN
  2. Observe the ways in which individuals with AN move
Continue reading →

Deep Brain Stimulation for Severe Anorexia Nervosa

This week, a team of researchers from the University of Toronto published a paper in The Lancet describing the results of a small study using deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat severe/chronic anorexia nervosa. Major news outlets, including the BBC, reported on the findings. A few people emailed and messaged me asking me to do a post about it (which is cool! I love it!). So here it is.

DBS is a surgical procedure that involves implanting an electrode that delivers electrical signals to the brain. DBS is used to treat Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders with good success, and has recently been implicated in the treatment of OCD and depression as well. (This is a pretty good video explaining how DBS works for movement disorders. There’s lots of information online about how DBS works, so I won’t go into detail here.)

This is not the first … Continue reading →

Mobile Therapy: Using Text-Messaging to Treat Bulimia Nervosa

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly used approaches to treat bulimia nervosa, but even CBT (or any treatment) doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes, even if CBT is helping, a weekly 50 minute therapy session is just not enough. Moreover, like with many other eating disorder treatments, dropout and relapse rates are high.

Although CBT is effective for 40–67% of patients, efforts are required to augment and improve  treatment to better serve individuals who drop out (0–33%), fail to engage (14%), or relapse (33%). The highest risk period for relapse is in the 6 months after treatment, with risk declining at 4-year follow-up. After 10 years, 11% of individuals originally diagnosed with BN continued to meet full diagnostic criteria for BN and 18.5% met criteria for eating disorder not otherwise specified.

What can be done to help the individuals that don’t benefit (or benefit fully) from CBT, … Continue reading →

Yoga in the Treatment of Eating Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Exercise can be great for your body and for your mental health. It is well accepted that exercise can decrease anxiety, increase concentration, and generally improve mood. But too much exercise can be harmful, especially during recovery from a restrictive eating disorder. So is there a way to reap the benefits of exercise without the risks? And if yes, can this exercise actually help in the recovery process?

One form of exercise that has gained a lot of popularity is yoga. Initial studies on the use of yoga in treatment of anxiety and depression seem promising (though I haven’t checked them out in detail myself) (Mishra et al., 2001; Sahasi et al., 1989; Pilkington et al., 2005; Mitchell et al., 2007). So, can it be used as an adjunct with regular eating disorder treatment? Can it decrease eating disorder symptoms?

In this randomized controlled study (RCT – randomized controlled Continue reading →

Doing It Together: Uniting Couples in the Treatment of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders don’t discriminate against gender, age, sexual orientation or race. Veteran men in their 50’s can struggle with eating disorders, as can trans men and women of all ages and backgrounds, and so can congenitally blind (and deaf) individuals.

Besides the barriers that many of these patients face in simply getting diagnosed with an eating disorder, yes, even if they’ve passed that hurdle, many face an even bigger problem: getting appropriate treatment.

Naturally, no one treatment method will work for everyone, especially when the patient population is so diverse. What works for a 13-year-old female may not work for a man in his 40’s or 50’s.  Unfortunately, treatment options (at least those that have some empirical evidence) are limited. As I’ve recently blogged, new treatments are being developed and utilized in treating adults and/or patients with with long-standing eating disorders – sub-populations that have largely been … Continue reading →