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 and new insights on eating disorders 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.
Arthritis: The Hidden Impact on Mental Health
Arthritis is an overall disease that affects the bones and joints in the body and be from multiple causes such as autoimmune disease, joint destruction from overuse and also joint destruction from being overweight. Regardless of the type of arthritis, it can be extremely painful over an extended amount of time, which can have a toll on the overall mood of an individual. Studies have shown that mental health, specifically depression and anxiety, and arthritis can be closely linked. If one is riddled with depression or anxiety they are more likely to then develop an eating disorder.
“Most people underestimate the effects arthritis can have on a person’s life. We are working to lift the lid on the reality of living with the condition so that people can live better lives and get the help they need, whether that be empathy, treatments or support with their mental health”.
The Genetics of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders affect 30 million adults in the United States and many people falsely believe that eating disorders are simply caused by someone wanting to be thin. Instead eating disorders are driven by deep biological factors such as genetics, past and current mental health disorders, the desire for self-control and low self-esteem. A study has recently showed that 50-80% of eating disorders are driven by genetics.
“In the Plos One study, patients with eating disorders were clustered into two main groups. In the first, the damaged genes fell into a class of gut neuropeptides affecting that control appetite, food intake and digestion/absorption of nutrients, making patients more likely to binge. Roughly half of this group struggled with restricted eating patterns, and the other half were binge eaters. The second group of patients had a cluster of genes involved in the function of the immune system and inflammation, which has long been known to suppress appetite. Patients with damaging mutations in the inflammation cluster are much more likely to have restricted-eating patterns.”
Compassion Focused Therapy For Eating Disorders
Individuals with eating disorders generally have been found to have high levels of criticism, shame and self-directed hostility resulting in lowered self-esteem and even self-harm behaviors such as cutting. A recent study used Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) has been used to teach individuals with eating disorders the importance of loving oneself and practicing self- compassion.
“From a compassion-focused perspective, the program includes the development of awareness and sensitivity through mindfulness, the role of human evolution in the development of the three motivational systems and that difficult thoughts, feelings, and behaviours (as well as biology) are “not your fault,” as well as the development of the compassionate self and ability to activate it in order to deal with difficult emotions (including those related to food and eating). A number of core CFT strategies are used to achieve this including soothing imagery, compassionate friend imagery, compassionate thought balancing, giving and receiving compassion, and compassionate letter writing”.