The Sobering Reality (and the Silver Lining) of Treating Anorexia Nervosa in Adults: A Randomised Controlled Trial

The challenges of treating anorexia nervosa are plenty; some of these challenges — like low prevalence rate and high treatment dropout rate —  make conducting randomised controlled trials aimed at identifying effective treatment methods really hard as well.

So I was pretty excited about the recently published randomised controlled trial comparing focal psychodynamic therapy (FPT), cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), and optimised treatment as usual in adult (a harder to treat demographic than adolescents) anorexia nervosa patients.

Reading the paper, I was pretty impressed with how good the study design was; I’m not going to go into all the nitty-gritty details, but if you have access to and the chance to read the paper, do it. You’ll appreciate, I think, the amount of effort that went into this.


Patients were recruited from ten universities across Germany. They had to be adult females with a BMI between 15-18 and with … Continue reading →

Anorexia Nervosa: Can We Blame The Season Of Birth?

You might have heard that individuals born between the months of June – August (or sometimes March – August) have a higher chance of developing anorexia nervosa. But is it true? A lot of studies have been done to investigate the question of whether a season of birth (or a month) correlates with a higher risk of anorexia or bulimia nervosa. The results are inconsistent, weak, and fraught with methodological problems.

But first, how could seasons (or the average temperature during birth, or conception) have an effect on the etiology of eating disorders? What’s the hypothesis?

There seem to be two main ideas (summarized in Winje et al., 2012):

  1. alterations in neuropsychological function as a result of sunlight exposure during gestation or postpartum, maternal infections during pregnancy, or nutritional changes (seasonal variation in nutrients, vitamins)
  2. alterations in fertility/reproductive patterns of the parents due to cultural influences, disordered eating in
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Maintaining Change Following Intensive Eating Disorder Treatment

It is a relatively well known fact that eating disorders have a high relapse rate and many people, myself included, find themselves in multiple intensive – residential, inpatient, even partial hospitalization – treatments. One may ask if such intensive treatments really work or if long term intensive care is just a band-aid of sorts. I know I’ve had to ask myself, “why is this going to work this time when it hasn’t worked in the long run before.”

There is even debate in the field on whether residential treatment actually has evidence supporting its effectiveness (see Tetyana’s post here). I can speak from experience that the various intensive treatments I’ve personally done have saved my life and given me more perspective, skills training, and support than I could have had otherwise. However, despite having made significant changes, I’ve had more than my share of slips and relapses.

I … Continue 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 →

A Case Against Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)

This study is a follow up on the previous study (last entry) which examined the problems with the EDNOS classification, the frequency of transitions between eating disorders and how the DSM should be changed to reflect the clinical reality of eating disorders (and what is the clinical reality?)

In this study, Eddy and colleagues followed 246 women who were initially diagnosed with either AN or BN, for an average of 9 years. The main goal was to study the growing disparity between (1) the consensus that eating disorders are not stable overtime and how (2) the current diagnostic criteria which do not adequately address this, by following the clinical presentation of EDs overtime and providing suggestions for the upcoming DSM-V.

EDNOS is an often ignored category in research–in main part because it is difficult to study such a heterogeneous group. Nonetheless, Eddy et al. summarize some interesting findings … Continue reading →

The Instability of Eating Disorder Diagnoses

Eating disorders are rarely static. Symptoms fluctuate, waxing and waning as circumstances change. Often, these fluctuations lead to diagnostic crossover–between subtypes of one disorder or to a different eating disorder altogether. The heterogeneity of symptom severity and frequency led to the establishment of the “eating disorder not otherwise specified” diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Essentially, it is everything that doesn’t quite fit into the “anorexia nervosa” or “bulimia nervosa” categories. (For example, I would guess that it is a common diagnosis for patients who fail to meet the “amenorrhea” criterion for the AN diagnosis.)

ED-NOS is a category for everything that doesn’t conform to some rather arbitrary criteria required for bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, meaning: it is the diagnosis for a lot of people. Okay, that’s not very scientific, I know, but I wouldn’t trust these numbers anyway–usually people who fall into this category don’t … Continue reading →