Organ failure

We believe liver damage causes jaundice, that asthma makes it hard to breathe, even that a bonk on the head causes disorientation. Yet we resist believing that depriving the brain of nutrients can cause disordered thinking or beliefs.

We insist that in order for a person to believe something it must have been learned or chosen or based on fact.

The study of body image distortion has much to teach us. Replace the words in this article: Do You Hate That Face in the Mirror? with a conviction that one is "fat."


  1. I don't think people are resistant to the idea that depriving the brain of nutrients can cause disorder thinking or beliefs. I'm more concerned with WHY ED patients started to deprive their brains of nutrients in the first place. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to drown out their sorrows. I had a dysfunctional family so I turned to binging and purging. Thanks for reading.

  2. I'm not denying that there's a biological or genetic component to eating disorders. I'm just saying that environmental, cultural, social, and family factors shouldn't be ignored. This doesn't just apply to EDs but many other diseases as well. For example, I'm sure there are people who are genetically vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes. However, if they exercise and eat healthy it's possible to avoid developing the disease altogether. It's the same with eating disorders. I probably have a genetic vulnerability to bulimia but if I had grown up in a better environment I probably could have avoided developing the disease.

  3. Here's how I look at it. It doesn't take much to turn a a biological predisposition to a an eating disorder into full-blown mental illness. It can be as benign as skipping breakfast because your schedule changed. It can be a week of a bad flu.

    EVERYONE with the biological predisposition is at risk even in a perfect life.

    The treatment is the same for everyone: full nutrition for long enough to get the person to where they were before the illness.

    And if the person was in a bad place THEN, then they deserve help and treatment for their real life. If that life included neglect or abuse or over-emphasis on appearance or an anxiety disorder - all those things need fixing ANYWAY.

    The eating disorder shouldn't have to be the only way to get help for the other things.

    I wish you had grown up in a better environment. But you may have gotten an eating disorder anyway, even if you had.

    Wishing you well.

  4. I don't know that there *is* a "why" to my eating disorder. I was told at first that many of the skills I am currently learning in recovery (such as expressing my feelings, taking care of myself, being honest, reducing stress) were the cause of my eating disorder.


    They were the result of my biological temperament- one that is anxious, perfectionistic, and prone to depression (with a LOT of mood swings). Just because these were skills I never learned as a kid doesn't mean that the lack of them caused my AN. My parents aren't always spectacular at these things, either- but none of them have even a hint of food issues.

    Would their ability to model such behaviors been a help? Probably. Would that have meant I wouldn't have developed an eating disorder? Probably not.

  5. Also, it simply doesn't help to 'blame'. What helps is moving forward. Blame, or the implication of it, can be very, very destructive.
    The same genetically predisposed 'sensitivity' in AN sufferers may also be present in their parents. Seeing your child suffer is trauma enough without adding to it.

  6. Let's change the paradigm and look at it: You have a 60yo white male, who wakes up one snowy morning, digs out his car, and in that process BANG - heart attack.

    Now, when he gets to the EW, and starts being evaluated, is anyone saying or even thinking that it was the snow shovelling that CAUSED the heart attack? NO, they're thinking that coronary-artery disease (CAD) CAUSED the heart attack. They know perfectly well that that snow-shovelling was the activity that started a cascade of physiological changes, which a healthy person would have easily accomodated, but in this case resulted in a disease event.

    Now it's true that a variety of things contributed to developing the CAD in the first place: Genetics, age, metabolic function, lifestyle choices, life stressors, etc. But nobody waits to tease out the relative contributions of each BEFORE treating the guy. The medical team is acting immediately to restore as normal function as possible using every best medicine available. They know the longer the right therapy is delayed, the worse the long-term outcome is.

    Now, sorting out better lifestyle choices, etc, might be incredibly useful at some point, but medical intervention doesn't hinge on it. Effective treatment isn't withheld until the patient or family has insight as what they may done to contribute to that heart attack. Or until the patient declares "I'm going to choose to minimize my CAD".

    And on the flip side - how effective can you imagine medical treatment would be if the snow-shovelling WERE taken as the problem? He'd get worked up for all the wrong things, and advice like "don't shovel, don't be active" might actually make the underlying disease worse. The poor guy would almost certainly be doomed to have another heart attack, because while his symptoms were being addressed, the CAD would be going untreated.

    The trigger of a disease event is a different thing altogether from the disease process. It's a "necessary" for disease to manifest or develop, but it's not sufficient to cause disease.
    The meaning we find in our lives for who we are and what happens to us is surely related to those experiences, but they are not the same thing as each other. How we understand the world is subjective, and shouldn't be confused with the information we use to come to that understanding.


    That is simply marvelous. Absolutely! SO WELL PUT.

  8. IrishUp-

    I'm posting that on my blog. It's so brilliant. I will happily credit you (and remove it if you decide you don't want it up).


  9. Laura & Carrie - I appreciate the feedback! Absolutely feel free to use it.
    I came up with this b/c we're in the protracted process of convincing our medical team that their current, old school approach is MEDICALLY WRONG, and since it flows from inaccurate assumptions, is basically doomed to result in yet another hospitalization (which very close to needing).
    I'm hoping that the more clinicians realize that there is no reason to abandon the principles of good medicine just because the diagnosis is ED, rather than diabetes or heart disease, the better the care will become.


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