Is Anorexia Nervosa an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorders (ADs) are common among patients with eating disorders. In one study of female inpatients, around 50-65% had a comorbid anxiety disorder (see my post here). Anxiety disorders in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) typically begin before the eating disorder and often persist after weight restoration and recovery (Bulik et al., 1997; Casper, 1990). Moreover, previous twin studies have suggested that there’s a “correlation between eating disorders and certain anxiety and depressive disorders, suggesting they comprise a spectrum of inherited phenotypes” (Hudson et al., 2003; Mangweth et al., 2003).

In this paper, Michael Strober and colleagues hypothesized that anxiety disorders and anorexia nervosa share common genetic, neural, and/or behavioural mechanisms. As such, they sought to investigate the association of AN with ADs by studying the prevalence of ADs in first-degree relatives of AN patients and comparing it to the prevalence of ADs in first-degree relatives of Continue reading →

What Really Goes On Inside Pro-Ana Communities? (Maybe They Are Not So Bad After All)

Ambivalence is a great word to describe how many eating disorder patients feel about recovery. Many people that follow my Science of Eating Disorders tumblr run thinspo blogs. But, they follow me, and many probably follow fyoured, which offers pro-recovery advice. Many people might want to recover someday, but they feel they can’t let go of the behaviours now. They are not denying their illness, or that recovery will happen, or that it really IS a disorder, but, right now, recovery is just not an option.

Bear with me for a moment. Suspend your judgements and gut-reactions to “proana/mia.”

Eating disorders are highly stigmatized. Most people don’t understand them. Physicians, nurses, and healthcare staff are often no better than the public. Treatment itself can have negative consequences. In a recent study, “more than half of all nurses and residents (58.2%) thought that ED patients … Continue reading →

Devil in the Details: Can Poor Cognitive Function be Attributed to Anorexia Nervosa Patients’ Obsession with Detail?

Hi all, Gina here, again. This article is short and sweet, as is my post. I’m becoming increasingly interested in some of the more cognitive aspects of eating disorders and seeing as my background on the subject is pretty limited (re: none, although I’m taking a cognitive science class this term), I was hoping to generate some discussion /or references from readers that I could incorporate into further posts. Cheers!

It has long been suggested that people with eating disorders (in this case, specifically anorexia nervosa) display some core deficits in cognitive ability — namely impairments in executive function (Fassino et al., 2002; Pendleton Jones et al., 1991; Tchanturia et al., 2001, 2002, 2004).

If you’re like me and don’t study cognitive science, executive function basically means that people with AN show abnormal mental rigidity, working memory, capacity to manage impulsive responses (response disinhibition) and abstraction skills (i.e. abstract … Continue reading →

Chances Are, What You Know About Eating Disorders is Wrong

Although clinicians (and medical professionals not specializing in eating disorders) often carry a lot of false beliefs about EDs, the public is even worse. Way worse. The portrayal of eating disorders in the news contributes to the myriad of myths and misconceptions that surround EDs. O’Hara and Clegg-Smith wanted to find out how exactly newspapers “contribute to shaping public perception of EDs.” 

It is awful when doctors are dismissive and ignorant, but it is even worse when you encounter these attitudes from your friends and family. When they not only don’t get it, they don’t want to get it. As O’Hara & Clegg-Smith point out, this ignorance and “disconnect potentially prevents timely ED diagnosis and reinforces a stigma that limits treatment availability.”

While researchers and ED specialists increasingly understand that eating disorders are “caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors” (for example, evidence from twin studiesContinue reading →

More on the Problematic EDNOS Category (and Diagnostic Crossover)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) category. ED-NOS is a diagnostic category for all individuals with subthreshold anorexia or bulimia nervosa or those with a mix of symptoms that don’t fit neatly into AN or BN. ED-NOS is essentially everything else. A mixed bag, if you will. It doesn’t tell the clinician nor the researcher anything useful, outside of what it isn’t. So, is there any use for it? If it doesn’t tell the clinician about patient symptoms or guide choice of treatment, why even bother? Does it help researchers understand EDs or do they just want to avoid this messy and heterogenous group (that by the way makes up most of those with eating disorders)? In this entry (and many more to come), I want to further explore these questions.

There’s been a push by researchers to minimize the … Continue reading →

The Genetics of Anorexia Nervosa

Is it the culture of thinness, obsession with dieting or just bad mothering? When it comes to determining the causes of anorexia nervosa, the answer appears to be none of the above. Increasingly, the evidence is pointing to genetics playing an important role in predisposing individuals to anorexia nervosa. Among clinicians and researchers, the notion that genetic factors are important in the development of anorexia nervosa seems uncontested. In this short review, Dr. Cynthia Bulik and colleagues summarize some of the findings in the genetics of anorexia nervosa.

Currently (DSM-IV), to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, a patient must show:

  • An inability to maintain normal weight (<85% of what is expected)
  • Intense fear of weight gain and/or becoming fat, though underweight
  • Obsession with body weight and shape, giving it undue importance in evaluating self-esteem/self-worth
  • Amenorrhea (missing 3 or more consecutive periods)
  • There are two AN-subtypes: restricting
Continue reading →