Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia often provide individuals with a sense of purpose; as if they are on a mission to remake themselves and finally become happy. People suffering from an eating disorder may have that inner voice telling them they will be happy if they can just lose the weight. This same voice tells a person with anorexia or bulimia that their worth is primarily measured by how they physically look. (more…)
The origin and development of eating disorders is a complex topic. In the past, misunderstandings about these disorders led many people to create false conclusions. Thankfully, newer research on how these ailments develop in an individual are slowly dispersing these misperceptions. These newer studies have even started to explore the connection between eating disorders like anorexia, depression and a person’s genetics.
The traditional stereotype for someone with an eating disorder was a younger, wealthier, Caucasian woman. However, this stereotype is not true. In fact, people from a wide-variety of backgrounds can, and do, suffer from eating disorders. Pushing beyond societal identifiers like race and income levels, researchers are now beginning to study the human genome in order to discover additional eating disorders indicators.
For conditions like anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge eating; healthcare professionals still are not sure as to why some people develop eating disorders. However, there are well-documented risk factors that can increase an individual’s chances for developing an eating disorders. Studies have shown a strong correlation between the existence of depression and occurrence of an eating disorder. These disorders also commonly co-occur with anxiety disorders.
Major depressive disorder or clinical depression is one of the more common mood disorders. Similar to eating disorders, the symptoms of depression can affect how a person feels and thinks. Even activities such as sleeping, eating, or working are impacted. Clinical depression is more than feeling sad for a day. It is much longer and more severe. For example, for a behavioral health professional to make a diagnosis, the symptoms for major depressive disorder usually must be present for at least two weeks.
In one study, researchers sampled 2,400 individuals who were hospitalized for an eating disorder. Out of this sample group, researchers discovered that 92% of those in this group struggled with a depressive disorder. Discovering connections between these conditions has encouraged researchers to look at more recent large-scale genomic studies. Using genetics to explore the complexity of eating disorders is starting to produce clues as to the disease’s origins and why it is so persistence.
One of the first studies that was able to document a strong correlation between eating disorders and genetics was in 2017. The research, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, was able to identify a significant genetic marker for anorexia nervosa. The implication of this research suggests that health conditions like anorexia nervosa may both exist as a psychiatric and a metabolic disorder.
Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any eating disorder. Commonly referred to as anorexia, the disorder is characterized by extreme caloric restriction resulting in weight loss, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image. Individuals with this condition sometimes go undiagnosed, but researchers estimate that roughly 2 percent of women and 0.3 percent of men suffer from this disease.
Researchers have found, by studying the genetic makeup of identical twins, that anorexia is 50 to 60 percent inheritable. Earlier genetic research has linked these same genomic regions to autoimmune disorders, including type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
With the success of the Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003; researchers can now study the impact of genetic code on a person’s health. The successful completion of the project gave scientist and physicians the ability, for the first time, to read the complete genetic code for building a human being. Currently, this DNA blueprint is used to research many other diseases and conditions. Hopefully, this new research will provide a better understanding as to why and how eating disorders develop, as well as offer additional treatment options.
Experienced Healthcare professionals can help individuals identify eating disorders, as well as provide safe and effective treatment options. For additional information or questions about eating disorder treatment options, please contact the staff at River Centre Clinic (RCC). Their Eating Disorders Programs provide a full range of treatment options for both adolescents and adults.
River Centre Clinic’s primary goal is to provide high quality, cost-effective, specialized care for patients with eating disorders in a state-of-the-art treatment environment. Our levels of care deemed most cost-effective for the majority of these patients is Partial Hospitalization for adults and Residential Treatment for adolescents. We also provide outpatient services for this patient population in order to facilitate transition to and from the above higher levels of care that are usually required for effective treatment of this population.
The EAT-26 (Eating Attitudes Test) assessment provides anonymous and quick feedback for a variety of eating-related health conditions.
Follow on Twitter: @River_Centre
Genetics, Depression, Eating Disorders, Anorexia
When the term eating disorder is mentioned, there is usually a specific mental image that comes to mind. Traditionally, the stereotypical person with this type of mental health issue is a young, wealthier Caucasian female. Mass media and pop culture images usually reinforce the portrayal of hyper-thin, white women who are suffering from the effects of conditions like anorexia nervosa. However, this stereotype that eating disorders only inflect younger, white women is not correct.
Eating disorders are usually placed into four overall categories: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED). Other mental health issues are also commonly assisted with these eating disorders such as general anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, bipolar disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The American Psychiatric Association defines an eating disorder as an illness where people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors. They also have problems related to the regulation of thoughts and emotions, usually becoming obsessed with food consumption and their body weight. The prevalence of reported eating disorders, with the exception of anorexia nervosa, is similar among Non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian Americans in the United States.
Decades ago, American societal portrayals of eating disorders were almost always shown as a white-woman problem. Shockingly, this misconception was also maintained by physicians and other healthcare professionals.
For example, behavioral health research from 2006 challenged the notion that African-American women were less likely to develop eating disorders. In this study, healthcare providers read 1 of 3 passages describing disturbed eating patterns of a fictional patient named Mary. The only differences between the passages were that the patient’s race, which was randomly changed for each provider. This meant that every fictional patient’s symptoms were identical, with only the person’s race randomly rotating between African-American, Caucasian, or Hispanic.
Healthcare professionals were then asked to diagnosis the patient’s level of depression, anxiety as well as whether an eating disorder might exist. In cases of a white racial profile, the eating behavior was considered problematic 44% of the time. For Hispanic profiles, the behavior was considered problematic in 41% of the cases. Surprisingly, when the patient was identified as African American, the eating behavior was identified as problematic in only 17% of the cases. The study’s final results suggested that healthcare clinicians appear to hold race-based stereotypes about eating disorders that could limit their detection of symptoms in African-American girls.
The results of the 2006 study reinforced earlier research from 2002 which found that the race of adolescent girls had a significant impact on the detection of disturbed eating patterns. In this study, undergraduate college students recognized the existence of an eating disorder more often when they read about a Caucasian female, rather than when they read about a minority female (Hispanic or African American) with the same behavior.
National statistics indicate that eating disorders predominantly occur in white females, but many eating disorder professionals increasingly believe that the data is skewed. Women of color have likely been alienated from personal support networks. In addition, healthcare professionals use to believe that African-American and Hispanic women were somehow more immune to eating disorders.
Until recently, people with an African American racial identify were underrepresented in treatment centers and research studies about eating disorders. Gathering quality data was more of a challenge due to societal misperceptions and prejudice. Now it is clear that perceptions of body image and disordered eating patterns are not just problems for young, white women.
Here is some additional information on eating disorders and minorities:
- Individuals of Hispanic descent were more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa versus their non-Hispanic peers.
- Studies and news reports have found elevated rates of anorexia and other eating disorders among teenage girls in Orthodox Jewish communities.
- People of color with self-acknowledged eating and weight concerns were less likely than white participants to have been asked by healthcare providers about eating disorder symptoms, despite similar rates of eating disorder symptoms across ethnic groups.
- For American Indian/Native American, a significantly higher percentage of women reported disordered eating behaviors.
It is clear that eating disorders do not only occur in certain racial or socioeconomic groups. Race, ethnicity and/or socioeconomic status does not make individuals immune to these health conditions. In the past, eating disorders were primarily associated with heterosexual, young, white females. In fact, these mental health issues affect people from all demographics and ethnicities at similar rates. However, minority groups (particularly African Americans) are significantly less likely to receive help for eating disorder problems.
Regardless of one’s racial or ethnic identity, treating and recovering from an eating disorder takes time as well as professional help. An experienced mental health professional can help a person understand the origins of this behavior, whether it is an eating disorder as well as acquire coping skills.
For additional information or questions about this topic, please contact the staff at River Centre Clinic (RCC). Their Eating Disorders Programs provide a full range of treatment options for both adolescents and adults. The River Centre Clinic’s main phone number is 1.877.212.5457.
The EAT-26 is the most widely cited standardized self-report screening measure that may be able to help you determine if you have an eating disorder that needs professional attention. Take the EAT-26 now and get immediate and anonymous feedback.
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Eating Disorders, Minorities
Contributor: ABCS RCM
In 2014, the New York Times published an article that explored the ever-growing presence of smartwatches in healthcare. The article argued that watches in the future will not only track time in increasingly complex ways, but will also play a more critical role in helping people stay healthy. These new watches which mimic the nomenclature of the smartphone are collectively known as smartwatches. The article predicted that in the near future, these devices would go beyond simply transferring app usability from a smartphone to your wrist.
The long-term goal of these devices was to solve problems and deliver benefits to the user in a fundamentally new way that was unique to the smartwatch. These high-tech wristbands would track a person’s fitness level while simultaneously helping with the treatment and management of chronic health conditions. Since 2014, smartwatches have expanded in their functionality and popularity. Many smartwatches can help monitor heart conditions and sleep issues, but now these devices will assist in treating eating disorders.
For readers who are not familiar with smartwatches, here is a brief summary of these newer devices. Basically, a smartwatch is a small computer that is worn on the wrist. They can associate with a smartphone and are extensively used for long-term biomonitoring or telemetry. More recent smartwatches have smartphone functionality and utilize Bluetooth and LTE technology.
Reflecting current medical industry trends, many technology companies have been expanding there presence in the healthcare industry. The tech giant Apple has a number of rumored healthcare-themed projects. For example, a recent patent application that was made public suggests that the company may soon offer a wearable device that accurately monitors blood pressure. In a different healthcare specialty, Apple is donating smartwatches for a new research on eating disorders. The tech company will donate Apple Watches to a binge eating disorder (BED) and bulimia nervosa (BN) study.
The term eating disorder is a broad medical term. The diagnostic system in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies eating disorders into four basic diagnostic categories: anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), binge eating disorder (BED) and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED). The most notable change in the DSM-5 over the previous editions was the recognition of binge eating disorder as a separate eating disorder category. In recent years illnesses like bulimia have gained public attention. Entrepreneur, actor and political activist Jane Fonda recently spoke publicly about her battles with bulimia.
The goal of the binge eating study is to discover whether this illness is biological or behavioral in origin. More precisely, the study is hoping to better understand the genetic factors that may be associated with binge eating disorder (BED) and bulimia nervosa (BN) in order to develop better treatments for the millions of people who suffer from these illnesses.
The creator of the iPhone is donating 1,000 of its Apple Watches to this study. The company itself is not conducting the study or analyzing any of the data. However, researchers believe that Apple’s smartwatch technology could help to greatly expand the medical understanding of how and why eating disorders occur. Participants in this study will wear the Apple Watch in order to monitor their heart rates over an entire month. They will use a mobile app on the smartwatch to record their thoughts and emotions during periods of binge eating activity. The researchers are investigating whether there are specific biological changes that occur in the body before a binge eating episode. Examples of biological changes that the study hopes to detect are changes in a person’s heart rate before each episode. This kind of data is something that the Apple Watch should readily detect and record.
A long-term goal is to use this data to predict binge eating episodes before they happen. In this way, medical professionals could specifically understand what happens to the human body in the time period leading up to binge and purging behavior. Ultimately, researchers hope to gain the ability to anticipate and change the course of these episodes.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and Bulimia Nervosa (BN) are dangerous conditions that require medical help. An individual suffering from bulimia nervosa may reveal several signs and symptoms, many which are the direct result of self-induced vomiting or other forms of purging, especially if the binge/purge cycle is repeated several times a week and/or day.
Physical signs and symptoms of this eating disorder include:
- Constant weight fluctuations
- Electrolyte imbalances, which can result in cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, or ultimately death
- Broken blood vessels within the eyes
- Enlarged glands in the neck and under the jawline
- Oral trauma, such as lacerations in the lining of the mouth or throat from repetitive vomiting
- Chronic dehydration
- Inflammation of the esophagus
- Chronic gastric reflux after eating or peptic ulcers
Other signs and symptoms of binge eating and purging are:
- The disappearance of large amounts of food
- Eating in secrecy
- Lack of control when eating
- Switching between periods of overeating and fasting
- Frequent use of the bathroom after meals
- Having the smell of vomit
Only experienced healthcare professionals can properly diagnosis eating disorders and provide crucial help. For additional information about binge eating and bulimia, please contact the staff at River Centre Clinic (RCC). Their Eating Disorders Programs provide a full range of treatment options for both adolescents and adults. The River Centre Clinic is located in the tranquil setting of Sylvania, Ohio – a historic suburb of Toledo, Ohio.
The EAT-26 (Eating Attitudes Test) assessment provides anonymous and quick feedback for a variety of eating-related health conditions.
Follow on Twitter: @River_Centre
Binge Eating, Bulimia Nervosa, Apple, Smartwatches
The River Centre Clinic offers outpatient programming for children with eating difficulties. Childhood can be full of different phases and eating changes. Although this is fairly common behavior, it can leave parents feeling troubled. Disturbances in feeding become problematic when it causes the child to become upset or worry and when he or she is not eating enough to sustain proper nutrition and facilitate proper growth. Complications around eating can take many forms including but not limited to:
- Trouble with food textures/sensory issues
- Temper tantrums during meals
- Refusing to eat
- Limiting food groups
- Choking, gagging, or vomiting after eating
- Body image concerns
Although eating issues during childhood may seem to be just a frustration for parents and caregivers, there are real medical concerns including, nutritional deficiencies or a reliance on liquid supplements and vitamins. The staff at River Centre Clinic are carefully selected, not just for their experience in treating symptoms and underlying causes of eat problems, but also for their compassion and willingness to extend themselves on behalf of all clients. The staff is clinically trained in working with children suffering from:
- Selective/restrictive eating (picky eating)
- Food, choking, vomiting phobias (Functional Dysphagia)
- Lacking interest in food/eating
- Food avoidance due to sensory issues
River Centre Clinic’s outpatient therapists work with children and families to lessen the stress and anxiety surrounding mealtimes. They work closely with families to ensure that every member is part of the healing process. Many times, changes are necessary to the environment and routine that will require the assistance of parents and caregivers.
The Clinic’s Childhood Eating Problems Program is based on well-established and evidence-based therapy models that integrate individual and family therapy. The treatment is based on applied behavioral principles, enhanced cognitive behavioral principles and directive play therapy techniques, which integrate individual and family therapy and is applied in an individualized manner for each patient. River Centre Clinic treats eating problems that may be coupled with co-occurring disorders and problems, including but not limited to:
- Anger Management
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Behavioral Problems
- Conduct Disorders
For further information about this program, or to schedule an initial assessment, contact Anna Lippisch, MSW, LSW, Director of Childhood Eating Problems Program, at 419-885-8800.