5 THINGS WE KNOW ABOUT EATING DISORDERS | RESEARCH 2019
Research published in 2019 reveals some new and interesting findings on eating disorders. These studies are important as they contribute to knowledge on eating disorders, and it is a great way to explore treatment that can work for individuals with eating disorders.
Here are five things we know about eating disorders:
- It has come to known that adapted physical exercise can promote better physical health in individuals with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
- There might be some ethnic differences in eating disorders.
- Research shows an association between substance use disorder and bulimia nervosa and binge eating behaviour.
- A study emphasises parent experiences when adolescent distress persists after the Maudsley and family-based therapies for anorexia nervosa.
- Lastly, research shows that lower quality of life was associated with greater symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorder and higher number of body area of concern.
1. Treatment effects on compulsive exercise and physical activity in eating disorders
One of the core symptoms of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder is dysfunctional thoughts and use of physical activity. The desire of physical activity in individuals with eating disorders can impact the treatment negatively. Nevertheless, adapted physical activity led by a staff with competence in exercise sciences is rarely part of the treatment of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
A recent study investigated the effects of a 16-week outpatient treatment-intervention with cognitive behaviour therapy or physical activity and dietary therapy on compulsive exercise. In addition to this, they also measured physical activity in women with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
The results of the study showed that both physical activity and dietary therapy, and cognitive behaviour therapy with the 16 week outpatient treatment-intervention resulted to improvements in compulsive exercise. Importantly, physical activity and dietary therapy led to reduced compulsive exercise. These findings show that physical exercise can be used to treat particular eating disorders. The authors argue that inclusion of exercise can improve poor physical health reported in females with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
2. Are there any ethnic differences in eating disorders?
There are several negative outcomes of eating disorders such as increased risk of suicide, cardiovascular, endocrine system pathologies, and severe obesity, in addition to other medical conditions. Therefore, a current 2019 study emphasised the importance of understanding the prevalence of eating disorders and risk factors for all ethnic groups and tested for ethnic differences in eating disorders.
The study used an American sample in which the participants were of Native American ethnicity, African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic Americans and White/European Americans. The findings revealed that there are no significant differences to the risk and development of eating disorders across ethnic groups. However, the results also indicated that Asian Americans had specifically higher thin ideal internalisation in comparison to Black and White Americans. Asian Americans also reported higher dieting, weight and dieting concerns, body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms than White Americans. The authors suggest that this might be due to Asian Americans’ adherence to the Western appearance ideal, which is exposed through Western Media in Asia and Pacific Islander cultures.
3. Prevalence of substance use disorder comorbidity in eating disordered individuals
Comorbid substance use disorder (SUD) is when one individual suffers from a substance use disorder and develops a mental health disorder. A current study aimed to explore the lifetime and current prevalence of SUD in people with eating disorders. The authors acknowledged that substance use disorder often gets diagnosed, which makes eating disorders prognosis poorer.
The results of the study showed that tobacco, caffeine and alcohol were the most dominant comorbid SUDs in individuals with eating disorders. Moreover, an association between SUD and bulimia nervosa, and binge-purging behaviour in comparison to other eating disorders was identified. In other words, individuals that suffer from bulimia nervosa and binge-purge disorders are more in risk of struggling with SUD. The authors suggest that this can be linked to the fact that individuals with bulimia nervosa and binge-purge disorders find emotion regulation and impulse control more challenging than other eating disordered diagnosis and eating disordered behaviours.
4. Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Quality of Life
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health disorder in which one has obsessive thoughts with imagined physical defect or a small defect that is often not observed by others. BDD shares some features with eating disorders such as concern with body image. A 2019 study examined the quality of life in individuals with appearance concerns as previous research indicated that BDD is associated with low quality of life. Notably, quality of life is defined as the quality of the various domains in life such as material, social, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
The study revealed that lower quality of life was associated with greater symptoms of BDD, anxiety, OCD, eating disorder and higher number of body area of concern. Moreover, there was an association between quality of life and symptoms of depression and OCD. The authors suggest that OCD and depression might especially be crucial for the comprehension of the correlation between quality of life and BDD.
5. Parent experiences when adolescent distress persists after the Maudsley and family-based therapies for anorexia nervosa
Maudsley Family Therapy (MFT) and its manualised version, Family Based therapy (FBT) are treatment interventions for adolescent with anorexia nervosa. The efficacy of the treatment is measured by improvements in eating behaviours and weight restoration. Importantly, an intensive home-based re-feeding intervention is an important feature of this therapy. This requires commitment from the parents of the adolescent for up to one year. Although, prior research has indicated that this treatment works to restore weight in some adolescents, a study published in 2019 aimed to investigate how the treatment impacts family distress, relationships and identity.
The findings of this study revealed that MFT and FBT makes therapy a bit clearer for the parents which relieved the parents’ anxiety for their children in addition to improving family functioning. However, there were some issues with MFT and FBT. Notably, the therapy did not adequately address the guilt, blame, and anxiety the parents felt due to their children’s eating disorder. When the treatment finished, the therapy left the parents struggling with an uncertain future and health of their children. The authors of the study conclude that the results of this study emphasises the need for treatments for adolescents with anorexia nervosa that address both adolescent and parental distress. It should also focus on rebuilding the parents and their children’s sense of identity that has been challenged by the eating disorder and its impact.
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