Lighting the way to a common cause

Eating disorders are, and desperately need to be seen as, one of many devastating brain conditions. As long as we live in an intellectual cul-de-sac where eating disorders are not included in discussions of - and the eating disorder world is reluctant to be seen in the same sentence as - schizophrenia and depression and Parkinson's we will continue to fail all the people and the families struggling with serious mental illnesses.

Genetics sheds light on mental illnesses offers one of the reasons why we're all confused: "This is just so much more complicated than anyone wanted it to be." And why the search has been so halting: "we didn't see it because we weren't looking."

"Psychiatry is all but unique in medicine in its utter lack of chemical or biological tests to determine what a patient has. Genetic research could lead to diagnostic assays to help determine whether, say, a troubled child suffers from bipolar disorder, impending schizophrenia, or garden-variety growing pains."

Just imagine for a moment: what if the first day one suspected an eating disorder or depression you could go to the doctor and have a test to diagnose it and begin immediate treatment based on the best knowledge available. Imagine if treatment recommendations were based on verified knowledge of how a particular population responds to a particular approach. So much suffering, the immense wasted suffering of delayed diagnosis and bumbled treatment could be alleviated.

(much thanks as always to my friend, Catherine, for bringing this and other great articles to me fresh off the - ink-less - presses)


  1. Wouldn't that be great, a simple diagnosis test to determine MHI....and $200M seems nothing when you look at collective or individual governments defense expenditure. That's one fighter plane isn't it?

  2. One fewer fighter... that's a win-win all around!

  3. Hi Laura,

    Your blog is very interesting. I've been scouring the web for information regarding genetics and the dopamine issue on EDs and there is so little to be gleaned.

    I suffer with anorexia myself and cannot believe that it is purely 'a selfish way of thinking' such as I have been told. To struggle on such an hourly, 1/4 hourly basis and go through battles in your head can surely not be a selfish act? Or am I fooling myself?

    Thanks for shedding a bit more light on this issue for me. It's cold comfort, but still comfort.

  4. Annie,

    The information is out there, but not making its way into practice as quickly as it should. Most clinicians were trained in an earlier era, and because treatment requires multi-disciplinary teams there are a lot of non-scientists having to cope with a paradigm change that isn't easy for laypeople to get a handle on.

    Our best bet is to find and work with teams who do have that interest and training - few and far between. But there was a time when people scoffed at the idea of bacteria and viruses, too.

    You are not fooling yourself. Your illness is NOT a choice you are making, and there is ZERO selfishness involved. You have a brain condition that distorts reality and holds you back from progress. But it is TREATABLE. You can fully recover! You need skilled clinicians who can bring your brain function back to normal: with nutrition, normalizing behaviors, time, support, skills, and a safe environment. Put yourself in the hands of a team that believes you can recover, and will help you get the tools to do it. YOU CAN RECOVER, but YOU DON'T NEED TO DO IT ALONE.


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