Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are recognized by psychologists and psychiatrists around the world and can result in severe co-morbidities and even death if left untreated. With the continued social stigma attached to eating disorders and in general, mental health disorders; often times it can be challenging to discern the truth from fiction. New innovations in treatment are continuously being published however the mainstream media often does not shed light on these important findings. Below are three published articles that had eating disorders professionals talking this week.
A new gene that is associated with the development of anorexia nervosa has been located resulting in even more evidence that anorexia nervosa, like schizophrenia, is a psychiatric illness. A genetic locus on chromosome 12 is confirmed to be linked with anorexia nervosa and this same genetic location is associated with type-1 diabetes and autoimmune disorders. Anorexia can be a deadly disease. Of all mental health disorders, anorexia is linked with the highest mortality rate. Death can be a consequence of not receiving treatment, but 1 in 5 anorexia-related deaths are a result of suicide. Discovering this specific genetic location can potentially help target this gene with medication, resulting in higher treatment outcomes for this deadly disorder.
“The researchers are continuing to increase sample sizes and see this as the beginning of genomic discovery in anorexia nervosa. Viewing anorexia nervosa as both a psychiatric and metabolic condition could ignite interest in developing or repurposing medications for its treatment where currently none exist”.
Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterized by having an unhealthy obsession with healthy food. The term is derived from the Greek word “orthos,” which means, “right” and “rexia” which means, “hunger”. Therefore this terms literally means “righteous eating”. An obsession with healthy dieting and consuming only pure foods becomes deeply rooted in the individual’s way of thinking to the point it interferes with their daily life. Examples of severe eating disturbances seen in orthorexia include eating only fruits and vegetables or only consuming organic food.
“Orthorexia often starts out as healthy eating, then descends into severe restrictions.
Someone might start out as a vegetarian, become a vegan, move to eating only raw vegan food, then create another rule to only eat organic. But it’s not the type of food that’s the problem – it’s the strict limits. Dr. Steven Bratman, a California-based doctor who was interested in the healing power of food, later became disillusioned. He coined the term orthorexia in 1996”.
Eating disorders often go unrecognized and undiagnosed due to the stigma, the cost of treatment and the long waiting times for insurance approval. The first ever study released in England revealed the waiting times for treatment in children with eating disorders. New waiting time targets were released in 2016 for individuals under the age of 19 who needed treatment for an eating disorder. These targets were released because experts were discovering that individuals could go weeks to months without receiving the proper treatment resulting in severe complications and even suicide. The targets state that there should be no more than one week between referral and the start of treatment for urgent cases and four weeks for routine cases. For the most part, individuals met these standards resulting in better treatment and potentially less devastating complications.
“After one year the stats show that, on average, 65% of young clients started urgent treatment within one week during 2016-17 – equivalent to 660 children and adolescents. A total of 10% had to wait longer than four weeks to start ‘urgent’ treatment, with 13 individuals delayed for more than 12 weeks for their first treatment. For routine cases, 73% of clients started treatment within four weeks last year – equal to 3,102 youngsters. One in four had to wait longer than the target four weeks for routine treatment and 5% waited three months or more. NHS England said it showed that ‘a substantial proportion of children and young people are receiving the care they need swiftly’. By 2020, 95% of children and young people should be treated within these time frames, NHS England says”.