Commentary
This category contains 11 posts

Examining Mandometer(r) Founders’ 10 “Reasons” Why Eating Disorders Are Not Mental Disorders

This is Part III of my mini-series on the Mandometer® treatment. In my first post, I wrote about the history and rationale of the Mandometer® treatment. In my second post, I evaluated a recent study published by the creators of Mandometer® (Bergh et al., 2013); I wanted to see whether their data supported their claims (spoiler alert: it didn’t). In this post, I’m going to focus on the first five of Bergh et al.’s ten reasons why eating disorders are not mental disorders (or something like it, anyway).

If it seems like I have a personal vendetta against Cecilia Bergh & Co/Mandometer®, rest assured that I most certainly do not. I just don’t like bad science, misleading claims, and snake oil. As I mentioned in my first and second posts, I actually like many of the components of the Mandometer® treatment. (For example, I agree that weigh restoration (when applicable) and normalization of eating are crucial, primary components of ED treatment.) I just thought I’d take the opportunity to illustrate how critical we have to be when evaluating …

Body Image: Is It a Useful Concept? (Maybe Not So Much)

I recently attended the International Society of Critical Health Psychology’s 8th Biennial Conference in Bradford, England. At the conference, I had the pleasure of attending many talks that challenged the way we approach health psychology. Luckily for me, there were several sessions that touched on issues of disordered eating and body image.

One such talk, a panel presentation with Hannah Frith, Sarah Riley, Martine Robson and Peter Branney, challenged attendees to re-think the way we approach body image. When I returned home, I immediately downloaded an article by Kate Gleeson and Hannah Frith (2006) that discusses this same idea and essentially begs the question: Is the concept of “body image,” as it is currently articulated, actually useful?

This might come off as a controversial question; after all, body image is central to many studies (and treatment programs) related to eating disorders. We’re told repeatedly that by improving our body image, we can achieve peace with food, with ourselves, with exercise, and with others. Good body image is upheld as the panacea of recovery and …

How Much Can We Learn About Eating Disorders From Animal Research?

I have been studying the neurobehavioral aspects of food and drug reinforcement for the past 5 years (read more about it on my profile page). This involves using rats to mimic basic human behaviors surrounding food and drug intake. I then manipulate various neurotransmitter systems by using drugs and observe the effects this manipulation has on the behaviors I am interested in.

What’s important to this type of research is that we constantly challenge and evaluate the validity of using these animal models to study complex human diseases and disorders. Validity can be divided into several categories, but I’m going to focus on two in particular and relate them to an animal model of binge food intake.  These two types of validity are predictive validity and construct validity:

In psychology, a construct refers to things like intelligence, motivation, and knowledge; things that are hard to measure, observe, and operationalize (so that we could measure and study it).

Predictive validity and construct validity are important for preclinical studies (that’s before humans get involved) because they aid in determining what we can reasonably infer

Beyond Simple Solutions: The Need for Complex Ideas in Anorexia Nervosa

I often hesitate to make broad, sweeping claims about the nature, cause, and experience of eating disorders and disordered eating. However, if there is one thing I feel absolutely certain saying about these disorders, it is that they are incredibly complex and multifaceted with no “one-size fits all” solution. So, I was quite excited when I came across a recent article by Michael Strober and Craig Johnson (2012) that explores the complexity of eating disorders and their treatment. Both authors have significant clinical experience treating eating disorders.

This article uses cases studies, literature, and the authors’ collective clinical experience to respond to some of the key controversies surrounding anorexia and its treatment. Among the major controversies that have come to light of late, they focus on two:

  1. Genetic/biological causation (Biologically-based mental illness – BBMI)
  2. Family-based treatment (FBT) as the best form of treatment for adolescents

The authors’ exploration of these topics supports an overall argument: focusing on singular explanations and solutions for anorexia, particularly through the vehement defense of any particular approach, obscures the complexity of the disorder, as well …

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 low blood sugar levels (half of what is defined as the threshold for low blood sugar). For reasons that are not clear, an order for tube feeding was cancelled and

Eating Disorders Among Lesbian and Bisexual Women

The hardest part of science blogging is picking an article to blog about. In times when I’m indecisive–when I spend hours sifting through the literature, inevitably creating several draft posts before deciding each article isn’t interesting enough–I turn to the list of topics that have been suggested by readers. The last suggestion I received was “eating disorders in the lesbian community.” It is a great suggestion, but I thought my search wouldn’t turn up much. But, to my surprise, it did turn up some studies.

But please, don’t expect too much: it is not a well-studied area, and most of the data comes from self-reported questionnaires, which are not particularly reliable:

  • First, there’s selection bias: the 50% or so of people who return the surveys could be different in significant ways from the 50% that don’t. For example, in a survey about mental health, perhaps individuals that have had personal experiences with mental health issues are more likely to respond. This skews the data in a such a way that it might appear that a specific subgroup that’s

Chronicity in Eating Disorders: How Do We Define It and What Do We Do About It?

It comes as no surprise that the earlier eating disordered individuals receive treatment, the higher the likelihood that they will make a full recovery. In other words, the duration of the illness is inversely proportional with the likelihood of full recovery.

The problem is that a lot of eating disorders are not caught early. That a lot of people don’t have access to the treatment they need. Insurance will not cover it, their doctors don’t think it is a problem or won’t treat it, or there is simply no space. And even if there is space, and insurance will  cover it, dropout rates are incredibly high and treatment success is meager. The end result? Sometimes it is a success story – a full or partial recovery. But other times, the stories make headlines across the world, and not for good reason.

So then, what can we do about the individuals who don’t recover within the first one or two years of getting sick?

Again, it comes as no surprise that this question has not been explored in …

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 ignored for a long-time.

Following this trend of broadening the types of interventions available to treat eating disorder patients is UCAN: Uniting Couples in the treatment of Anorexia Nervosa.…

Can Eating Disorders Be Contagious?

Treating a patient with an eating disorder can often feel like walking on eggshells; it is easy to say or do the wrong thing. I’ve covered this topic in my previous posts. In my first post, I wrote about negative attitudes that health care providers often have with regard to eating disorder patients and in my second post, I covered some ways in which caring clinicians that do work with ED patients may – usually inadvertently - negatively impact treatment, often by impairing the physician-patient/caregiver relationship.

But let’s forget about clinicians for a second, what if the treatment environment itself is damaging? Could treatment itself do more harm than good?

That’s the question that Walter Vandereycken explored in this commentary article. (This interesting paper was brought to my attention by a reader – you know who you are, so thanks!)

And just to be really clear Vandereycken doesn’t mean contagious in the infectious-disease kind of way. Coming into contact with someone who has an eating disorder is not going to put you in danger of getting an eating disorder yourself.…

How Can We Treat Chronic and Severe Anorexia Nervosa? (On the Need for New Approaches)

Treating anorexia nervosa is hard. Treating chronic and severe anorexia nervosa is a lot harder. Although the situation seems to be improving, there are really no evidence-based treatments for anorexia nervosa – particularly for those who have been sick for a long time.

The treatments that many often claim are evidence-based are often only applicable to a select subgroup of ED patients, and even then, the evidence is usually weak. (I’m referring to Maudsley/FBT (family-based therapy) for adolescents with <3 yrs duration of AN and CBT for bulimia nervosa.)  But what about those with long-standing anorexia nervosa? In a recent review, Phillipa Hay and colleagues set out to conduct a systematic review of randomized controlled trials of treatment for chronic AN.

Randomized controlled trials or RCTs are at the heart of evidence-based medicine:

Hay et al searched the literature to identify RCTs where, among other criteria, the mean duration of illness was at least three years. They found eleven studies, but they could only confirm that a majority had a mean duration of over 3 years in just four of …

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