My work in Shanghai with clients from all over the world

Eight years ago this month, I moved to Shanghai for a 2.5 year assignment.  I have been meaning to share my reflections.  Here they are:

I had been working at Los Angeles County Jail for nearly 10 years when my husband’s business plan for a site-based English Language Learning Children’s business in China got funded by the Walt Disney Company. I was by then more than a little “burned out” and ready for a change.

I know my jail co-workers questioned the legitimacy of my excuse for finally “getting out of jail.” “Really, you’re going to China?” they asked incredulously, as if I were just naming the furthest place I could think of from Los Angeles County Jail. I left my job in November 2007 and became wistful. I wondered if my kids would ever be able to remember having a working mother (they were 10, 8, and almost 6 when we left).

And so, in January 2008, my husband and I packed up our house, 3 kids and a dog, and said goodbye to our family and life in Los Angeles. We arrived in Shanghai during its coldest winter in 20 years.

Within 2 weeks of my arrival, I had coffee with a Dutch psychologist who lived in my compound and supervised the counseling program through the expatriate community center. Knowing of my expertise in eating disorders from my CV, she immediately handed me 2 cases. A friend encouraged me to apply for a job with the Singapore-based Parkway Health, which ran clinics throughout Shanghai staffed by Western-trained doctors, serving a predominantly expatriate clientele. Parkway Health promptly hired me, and within 4 months of my arrival in China I was working two jobs.

My clients were anyone who could speak English. This included clients from every continent with the exception of Antarctica (I never got to treat any penguins!). They ranged in age from children to adults in their 60s. The majority were on expatriate assignments or had children with foreign passports attending international schools. Some were Chinese who had lived abroad and were now living in China while their children attended international school. Others were American-born Chinese who had come to work in China and faced significant cultural issues. Other clients came from the UK, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Canada, Israel, India, South Africa, and Australia.

Map in my office in Shanghai with pins representing hometowns of patients.

Map in my office in Shanghai with pins representing hometowns of patients.

I learned that clients around the world experience very similar problems. Due to my specialty, a significant portion of my clients was seeking treatment for eating disorders. But with a short supply of therapists to treat the large and diverse population of expats in Shanghai, I also saw clients with anxiety, mood disorders, and marital problems.

I found that the stress of being an expat away from one’s family and home, and the clash of living in a foreign culture, added overlays of additional stress to whatever other disorder or issues were already there. I also found that there were a certain number of individuals who had fled their location of origin (sometimes a series of locations) in an attempt to run away from a problem; unfortunately, in these circumstances the problems had merely followed them to China.

A Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) approach provided benefits for clients of diverse ethnic backgrounds. I sought additional training in Emotionally-Focused Therapy for couples and Family-Based Treatment for adolescent eating disorders to enhance my skills.

One of the most exciting aspects of living and working in Shanghai was spearheading the establishment of the Shanghai International Mental Health Association (SIMHA), an organization for therapists serving the international community of Shanghai. Over time, I proactively cultivated relationships with anyone who had been a therapist. This aided me when I needed to consult or refer to another therapist. Unfortunately, although various international schools and organizations serving expatriates retained lists of expatriate therapists, whichever list I consulted of therapists practicing in Shanghai was outdated (and the turnover was relatively rapid). Thus, I reached out to the International Mental Health Practitioners of Japan and sought their advice on forming a similar organization in Shanghai. I then banded together the various and diverse therapists I had identified in Shanghai and together we formed a professional organization of mental health professionals (also from all around the world), adopted an ethics code, and built a website and a community of therapists who could support each other. I am proud that SIMHA still thrives.

Living and working in Shanghai gave me an amazing training in cultural awareness and sensitivity. I love learning about clients’ unique backgrounds and experiencing their worldviews. I particularly enjoy working with clients of diverse backgrounds. I am sensitive to the issues of expatriation and acculturation and generational conflicts around culture. I am also comfortable and enthusiastic about engaging with people from different backgrounds, whether cultural, religious, gender orientation, sexual orientation, or lifestyle.  It is this diversity that makes the texture of life so interesting and my work so rewarding.

For Teens With Bulimia, Family Based Treatment is Recommended

Teens With Bulimia Family Based TreatmentMy original eating disorder training began in 1991 with learning Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for bulimia nervosa (BN) under G. Terence Wilson, the co-author with Dr. Christopher G. Fairburn, of the treatment approach that preceded CBT-E. In 2010 I underwent training in Family Based Treatment (FBT) for Adolescent Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and became certified in FBT by the Training Institute for Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders.

CBT is the most effective treatment for adults with bulimia nervosa. It is an individual approach that focuses on reducing dieting and changing unhelpful thinking patterns that maintain the behavior. FBT is the most successful treatment for adolescents with AN. FBT encourages parental control and management of eating disorder behaviors, but does not address distorted thinking regarding shape and weight. Over the last five years, there has been no clear guideline on which treatment I should offer to adolescents with BN.

This changed in September 2015 with the online publication of “Randomized Clinical Trial of Family-Based Treatment and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adolescent Bulimia Nervosa” by Daniel Le Grange, Ph.D., James Lock, M.D., W. Stewart Agras, M.D., Susan Bryson, M.A., M.S., and Booil Jo, Ph.D. which has been published in the November Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

In this study, researchers at the University of Chicago and Stanford randomly assigned 130 teens between the ages of 12 and 18 years old with BN to receive either CBT-A (CBT adapted for adolescents) or FBT-BN (FBT for adolescent bulimia). The teens received 18 outpatient sessions over the course of six months. Assessments were conducted at end of treatment and at six and twelve month follow-ups. After the completion of the treatment, bulimia abstinence rates were 39% for FBT patients and 20% for CBT patients. By the six-month follow up, these rates rose to 44% for FBT patients and 25% for CBT patients. These differences were statistically significant. By 12 month follow up, while the bulimia abstinence rate continued to rise for both populations, the difference was no longer statistically significant.

The researchers concluded,

FBT-BN is likely a better initial treatment option compared to CBT-A for those adolescents with clinically significant bulimia behaviors. FBT-BN leads to quicker and higher sustained abstinence rates that are maintained up to 12 months posttreatment…It appears that, similar to their adolescent peers with AN, adolescents with BN can benefit from an approach that actively involves their families in the treatment process. However, given that there were no statistical differences between these 2 treatments at 12 months post-treatment, CBT-A remains a viable alternative treatment for this patient population, especially for those families who would prefer a largely individual treatment or when there is no family available to be of help.

In interviews about the study, Dr. Le Grange said, “Parents need to be actively involved in the treatment of kids and teens with eating disorders.”

This study reinforces my experience. Although I have employed CBT for bulimia in working with adolescents, rarely do adolescents fully embrace the work required on their part for CBT to be successful. I have found it more effective to use FBT with their family and to supplement with some individual CBT if the adolescent appears ready and motivated for additional independent work. Bingeing and purging are serious symptoms carrying the risk of heart and esophageal problems and death. Thus administering a treatment that brings a faster rate of remission of symptoms is a priority.

Look before you leap: Binge Eating Disorder, Vyvanse, and evidence-based psychotherapies

Binge Eating Disorder, Vyvanse, and evidence-based psychotherapiesGuest post by Elisha M. Carcieri, Ph.D. 

Binge eating disorder (BED) has been making headlines with the recent announcement that the FDA has approved lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse) for the treatment of BED.

So, what is BED, how is it treated, and what does this new treatment option mean for sufferers?

What is Binge Eating Disorder

BED is a condition in which a person engages in recurrent episodes of binge eating at least once a week for three months1. Binge eating episodes typically involve eating rapidly until uncomfortably full, and eating when one is not necessarily hungry. Some individuals with BED report feeling unable to stop the episode, and describe themselves as being out of control during a binge. Binge eaters often binge alone and make efforts to hide their behavior from friends, partners, or family members. Episodes of binge eating often end in feelings of guilt, shame, and depressed mood. Unlike other eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa, people with BED do not vomit or use other methods of compensation (such as excessive exercise or fasting) to shed calories or lose weight after a binge. It should be clear that this is a very different experience than, say, overeating on Thanksgiving, having a second piece of birthday cake, or eating foods that are outside of your normal pattern while on vacation.

Until 2013, BED was not a diagnosable eating disorder. It was instead grouped in with other unspecified eating disorders that didn’t quite meet criteria to be formally diagnosed. After much research, the most recent iteration of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), has included BED as a specific eating disorder distinct from other diagnoses.

Despite only recently being formally acknowledged, BED is the most commonly occurring eating disorder. Prevalence estimates vary, ranging from 1.6-3.5% of women, 0.8-2% of men, and 1.6% of adolescents.1, 2, 3 BED occurs as commonly among women from racial or ethnic minority groups as for white women, 1 and is often seen in people with severe obesity.1, 4 Up to 30% of people seeking bariatric surgery or other interventions for weight loss are suffering from BED5. While it is more common for women to meet all of the criteria for BED, men tend to engage in binge eating as frequently as women2. Like all eating disorders, the causes of BED are complex. There is evidence for genetic, biological, and environmental risk factors. BED is associated with significant chronic health problems. It is also common for individuals with BED to struggle with other mental health disorders at the same time, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

The good news is that there are established treatments that work for BED. Unfortunately, effective psychological interventions for eating disorders don’t get as much press as pharmaceuticals. Nevertheless, those suffering from BED should be aware of what is available.

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

Evidence-based psychological treatments are first-line considerations for the treatment of BED. A psychologist or other mental health professional qualified to treat eating disorders usually conducts psychological treatment for BED on an outpatient basis. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most well studied and established treatment for BED with demonstrated effectiveness.6 The treatment involves reducing episodes of binge eating using tools such as establishing regular eating patterns and self-monitoring of food intake and patterns of eating. CBT also addresses concerns about shape and weight, and examines and challenges patterns of thinking that may be keeping a person stuck in a pattern of binge eating. CBT for BED involves discussion and planning of how to maintain progress, and how to recognize and respond to relapse. Studies have demonstrated improvements lasting up to 12 months post-treatment with CBT.7 Interpersonal therapy (IPT) has also been proven effective for BED with strong research support.8 IPT involves more of a focus on interpersonal (relationship) difficulties with an understanding of how these problems may have precipitated BED, or how they might be keeping the BED going. Finally, there is evidence that dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which focuses on mindfulness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance, is effective at treating BED.9

Pharmacological Treatments for Binge Eating Disorder

In addition to psychological treatments, some antidepressants and anticonvulsants have proven helpful at reducing the frequency of binge eating in patients with BED.6 The newest and only medication specifically approved by the FDA for BED is Vyvanse, a central nervous system stimulant that has been approved to treat ADHD in children and adults since 2007. The approval for BED came after clinical trials demonstrated that the average number of binge eating days per week among sufferers were decreased in those who took Vyvanse, compared to those who took a placebo.10 Sounds promising…but there are other considerations to keep in mind…side effects, long-term use, and the question of whether a medication can address the complex nature of a serious eating disorder such as BED.

The potential side effects of Vyvanse include decreased appetite, dry mouth, increased heart rate or blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, feeling jittery, and even sudden death among people with heart problems. The drug is also particularly risky for individuals with a history of seizures or mania. Vyvanse may cause psychotic or manic symptoms in people with no history of mental illness, and has a high potential for abuse, dependence, tolerance, and overdose.

Vyvanse appears to decrease symptoms over a short period of time (about three months) while taking the medication. However, it is unlikely that the medication will result in long-term changes in complex binge eating behavior once the drug is stopped, meaning that one might expect to take Vyvanse for the rest of their lives in order to keep BED at bay. This is problematic considering the chronic nature of BED, 2 and the fact that the negative emotion, distress, shame, and weight or shape concerns that are often related to BED would almost certainly remain unaddressed.

While there are no identified side effects to engaging in psychological treatment of BED, these treatments do take time (often around 20 weeks), and not every person will respond to an intervention the same way. It may take some trial and error to find the right therapist or treatment. However, psychological treatments are more equipped than medication alone to address the binge eating behavior itself, and the different ways binge eating relates to other areas of a person’s life and functioning. Rather than simply masking and reducing symptoms in the short term with a medication, completing a course of evidence-based therapy can provide the insight and tools needed for managing the patterns of disordered eating that are characteristic of BED for life. Many people with BED may benefit from trying a psychological approach before initiating treatment with a serious medication like Vyvanse.

Implications for Patients

All of these factors should be carefully considered when making a decision about treatment for BED. With all eating disorders including BED, it is important to get help sooner rather than later. For many people, turning to their primary care doctor is the first step. Patients should keep in mind that these conversations can be sensitive and difficult, and many providers may not be familiar with BED. Other providers may be familiar with the recent approval of a new drug, and will be eager to explore prescription medication options for treatment.

If you aren’t getting anywhere with your doctor, it is always appropriate to ask for a referral to a medical provider who is more familiar with eating disorders. Your doctor may also be able to provide you with a referral to a mental health provider, such as a psychologist, who can provide one of the therapies discussed above, and to a nutritionist or dietician who specializes in eating disorders for even more comprehensive support. Remember that it is important to seek help from professionals qualified to treat eating disorders, and treatment decisions should be tailored to the unique needs of each person.

If you do see a psychiatrist regarding any medication, we have some recommendations.

References

1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM 5. bookpointUS.

2. Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope Jr, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biological psychiatry, 61(3), 348-358.

3. Swanson, S. A., Crow, S. J., Le Grange, D., Swendsen, J., & Merikangas, K. R. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in adolescents: Results from the national comorbidity survey replication adolescent supplement. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(7), 714-723.

4. Marcus, M. D., & Levine, M. D. (2005). Obese patients with binge-eating disorder. In The management of eating disorders and obesity (pp. 143-160). Humana Press.

5. Kalarchian, M. A., Marcus, M. D., Levine, M. D., Courcoulas, A. P., Pilkonis, P. A., Ringham, R. M., … & Rofey, D. L. (2007). Psychiatric disorders among bariatric surgery candidates: relationship to obesity and functional health status. The American journal of psychiatry, 164(2), 328-334.

6. Brownley, K. A., Berkman, N. D., Sedway, J. A., Lohr, K. N., & Bulik, C. M. (2007). Binge eating disorder treatment: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 40(4), 337-348.

7. Wilson, G. T., Grilo, C. M., & Vitousek, K. M. (2007). Psychological treatment of eating disorders. American Psychologist, 62(3), 199.

8. Wilfley, D. E., Welch, R. R., Stein, R. I., Spurrell, E. B., Cohen, L. R., Saelens, B. E., … & Matt, G. E. (2002). A randomized comparison of group cognitive-behavioral therapy and group interpersonal psychotherapy for the treatment of overweight individuals with binge-eating disorder. Archives of general psychiatry, 59(8), 713-721.

9. Telch, C. F., Agras, W. S., & Linehan, M. M. (2001). Dialectical behavior therapy for binge eating disorder. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 69(6), 1061.

10. McElroy S. L., Hudson, J. I., Mitchell, J. E., et al. (2014) Efficacy and Safety of Lisdexamfetamine for Treatment of Adults With Moderate to Severe Binge-Eating Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry.

Elisha Carcieri, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist (PSY #26716) practicing in the Los Angeles area. Dr. Carcieri earned her bachelors degree in psychology from The University of New Mexico and completed her doctoral degree in clinical psychology at Saint Louis University. During her graduate training, she conducted research focused on eating disorders and obesity, and was trained in using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for eating disorders and other mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Dr. Carcieri completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Long Beach VA Medical Center, where she worked with Veterans coping with mental illness, disability, significant acute or chronic health concerns, and chronic pain. In addition to cognitive behavioral strategies, she also incorporates alternative evidence-based approaches such as mindfulness, and acceptance and commitment-based strategies, depending on the needs of each client. Dr. Carcieri has experience working with culturally diverse clients representing various aspects of diversity including race/ethnicity, gender, age, disability, and size, and welcomes new clients from all backgrounds. She is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), and the Los Angeles County Psychological Association (LACPA). 

Psychological assistant providing low cost treatment for eating disorders

I remain committed to the practice of and dissemination of evidence-based treatments. To that end, I am excited to announce that I have added a registered psychological assistant to my practice in Los Angeles:

Liliana Almeida, M.A, Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Student, PSB-94020579 is no longer with the practice, but we do have a new therapist in training who provides low-cost therapy to patients with eating disorders in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. Learn more about Eliane Spagnoletto, ACSW.

Liliana Almeida, M.A.
Liliana Almeida, M.A.

 

Liliana Almeida, M.A., is a fourth year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University in Los Angeles. She received her M.A. from The New School and her B.A. from Rutgers University. During the last 7 years she has researched eating disorders and obesity. Her clinical experience includes working with diverse clients in a community mental health center providing cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic psychotherapy in English and Spanish.

Liliana will be working under my supervision and is available to work with adult and adolescent clients with eating disorders, anxiety, and depression.  She will provide services in English, Spanish, and Portuguese and will be able to provide some low-cost therapy to those in need.

Portuguese

Eu sou uma assistente de psicologia (PBS-94020579) para Lauren Muhlheim, Psy.D., psicóloga clínica especializada no tratamento cognitivo-comportamental de perturbações alimentares. Como assistente de psicologia, eu forneço psicoterapia cognitivo-compartamental em Português sob a licença da Dra. Muhlheim (PSY 15045) para adolescentes e adultos que sofrem com depressão, ansiedade e pertubações de o comportamento alimentar.

Spanish

Soy una asistente de psicología (PBS-94020579) para Lauren Muhlheim, Psy.D., una psicóloga clínica especializada en el tratamiento cognitivo-conductal de los trastornos alimentarios. Como asistente de psicología yo proveo terapia cognitivo-conductal en Español bajo la supervision y licencia de la Dra. Muhlheim (PSY 15045) para adolescentes y adultos que sufren de la depresión, ansiedad y de los trastornos de la conducta alimentaria.

 

AED Tweetchat on Diabulimia

I have to admit that, when a colleague on the Academy for Eating Disorder Social Media Committee that I was co-chairing proposed “diabulimia” as an idea for a tweetchat, I was not particularly excited.  As an eating disorder specialist in outpatient private practice, I have not professionally encountered clients with diabetes and eating disorders.

Since we could not easily identify any experts on the topic who also tweeted, the idea languished until the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals scheduled an event on the topic in my area.  John Dolores , JD, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and Executive Director of Center for Hope of the Sierras, was the guest speaker.

Prior to attending his talk, I had the luck at the FEAST conference to sit next to Dawn Lee-Akers, CFO at Diabulimia Helpline.  Together Dawn and Dr. Dolores educated me on the severity of ED-DTM1 (popularly referred to as “diabulimia”) and the need to draw more professional and public knowledge about this issue (and both agreed to be involved in the chat).

As a result, I was really excited to be involved in helping prepare for the AED twitter chat on the topic this week and to do my part to bring attention to the issue.  It was a great and informative chat and I hope you’ll read the entire transcript available here.

Some highlights of what I have learned:

  • Diabulimia is a media term; many providers prefer ED-DMT1.  It is most commonly the coexistence of Type I diabetes and an eating disorder with manipulation of insulin to lose weight.  In this case, the insulin manipulation is considered an inappropriate compensatory behavior (hence the use of the term diabulimia).  The individual may meet criteria for Bulimia Nervosa or OSFED.  It is also possible to have Type II diabetes and an eating disorder, which may be included in diabulimia if insulin manipulation is involved.  Additionally, some people can have diabetes and an eating disorder that are totally unrelated.
  • Women with Type I diabetes are 2.4 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than their non-diabetic peers.  Statistics vary quite significantly with a reported 45-80% of Type I diabetics reporting binge eating.  Multiple studies show 30%-35% of women with Type I diabetes report restricting or omitting insulin in order to lose weight.
  • Higher rates of eating disorders among people with diabetes are not surprising due to the way diabetes has traditionally been treated.  The traditional diabetes ‘diet’ focuses on low carbs and high protein, which encourages restriction, which in turn can lead to binge eating.  Diabetes management includes a lot of focus on numbers and on control which may feed perfectionism.  Patients with diabetes often lose weight pre-diagnosis, and gain weight when they start insulin, so come to associate insulin with weight increase.  They quickly learn that they can manipulate their weight by under dosing with insulin.
  • The effects of compensation by insulin are even more devastating than other forms of dietary compensation.  Patients with diabulimia are at risk for serious medical consequences.  The most dangerous short-term consequence is diabetic ketoacidosis, which requires immediate hospitalization.  Longer-term consequences include peripheral and autonomic neuropathy, retinopathy, cardiovascular disease, and even renal failure.  Some of the consequences are irreversible.
  • Diabulimia requires a specific and sensitive treatment approach from a coordinated team of professionals with expertise in diabetes and eating disorders.  The team should include nursing, endocrinologist, dietitian, therapist, and diabetes educator.  It is critical that the team use a consolidated approach and not treat the diabetes and eating disorder separately.
  • Intuitive eating, CBT, DBT, & ACT are successful in the treatment for comorbid diabetes and eating disorders.  The treatment of diabulima requires medical oversight, including regular monitoring of blood glucose, management of certain side effects of insulin re-introduction, and treatment of new or worsening diabetes complications.  Eating disorder patients with comorbid diabetes are more likely to be medically unstable and need inpatient treatment.

With diabetes on the rise and numerous prevention efforts aimed at preventing obesity, I was left wondering:  where are the prevention efforts for the even deadlier combination of diabetes and eating disorders?  For such efforts, eating disorder professionals and organizations must work together with diabetes professionals and organizations.  We invited several diabetes organizations to join our chat, and fortunately, a few did.  We must continue to raise attention to this problem and reach out to others outside the eating disorder field.

Resources:

  • The Diabetes Eating Problem Survey (DEPS-R) can be used by providers to assess whether patients with diabetes may have an eating disorder.
  • Diabulimia Helpline maintains a list of US treatment centers that have specialized programs to treat comorbid Diabetes and Eating Disorders.
  • Diabulimia Helpline recommends this video as the best overview on Diabulimia for patients, family and professionals.

Recovery Record App

Since my first foray into using Recovery Record app several months ago, I was pleased to discover that it is now improved with an interface for clinicians to access their clients’ records which are linked through a  code that patients enter.   Self-monitoring by clients has never been easier.

Self-monitoring of food intake is a helpful eating disorder recovery tool and a central element of treatment in cognitive behavioral therapy.  Research shows that self-monitoring is associated with a positive treatment outcome.  Many of my clients complain about having to carry unwieldy and obtrusive papers to record their intake.  A few have searched for iPhone apps and unfortunately chosen calorie-counter apps that only increase their preoccupation and eating disordered symptoms.  Now there is a better solution, an app called Recovery Record.  Available through the app store, Recovery Record was developed by an Australian student along with Stanford University.  It offers places to record food intake as well as thoughts, feelings, binges, purges, and urges.  There are supportive messages and reminders are sent if a meal is not logged when expected.  There is no affiliated calorie database.

To read more:  visit Recovery Record

 

ICED 2012

Two weeks ago I attended the International Conference on Eating Disorders, a conference sponsored by the Academy for Eating Disorders.  My attendance at the annual conference allow me to stay up to date on the most recent advances in treatment and provide the best and most recent treatments in my practice.  My involvement in the Academy allows me to connect with clinicians and researchers from all over the world and participate in AED committees and special interest groups.  I also keep up to date through the International Journal of Eating Disorders, the AED listserve, and AED’s social media sites.

Highlights from the International Conference on Eating Disorders 2012

  • Meeting and spending time with some of the major family and patient advocates, other FBT providers, and clinicians and researchers from around the world all coming together to improve treatment for patients suffering from eating disorders.
  • The opportunity to meet and learn from some of the leading researchers in the area of eating disorders.
  • Learning about the most recent and ongoing studies. 

A synopsis of one of my favorite talks below:

Tidbits from Tim Walsh and his group at Columbia:  A New Model for Understanding Anorexia Nervosa and Implications for Treatment

In anorexia, dieting begets weight loss which begets more dieting… why is dieting such a persistent behavior?  Tim Walsh and his group believe that operant conditioning, which is implicated in habit formation, offers an explanation. Continue reading “ICED 2012”

Empirically Validated Treatments

Empirically Validated Treatments For Eating Disorders

Today’s Los Angeles Times contained an article which highlights Family Based Treatment and Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, two treatments I provide:

Today, doctors and therapists focus on a handful of treatments that have been validated by clinical studies. For teens with anorexia, the first-line treatment is something called family-based therapy, in which parents and siblings work with the patient at home to help restore normal eating habits, said Dr. James Lock, an adolescent psychiatrist at Stanford University who specializes in treating eating disorders. Treating patients at home instead of in a hospital setting is less disruptive to their lives and is thought to promote recovery.

The therapy cures about 40% of patients in three to six months, and another 40% to 50% improve but remain ill, studies have found. The remaining 10% stay the same or get worse.

Researchers are still investigating the best way to treat teens with bulimia. Evidence is mounting in favor of cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves helping individuals change their attitudes and thoughts about food and body image. Studies show that about 40% of people with bulimia will recover after three to six months and another 40% will improve but still struggle with the disease; 20% remain the same or get worse, according to a 2010 review in the journal Minerva Psychiatry.

Full article available here:

Exposure in the treatment of Eating Disorders

Exposure therapy is widely recognized as a necessary (and sometimes sufficient) ingredient of treatment for most of the anxiety disorders including phobias, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.  Anxiety is a core psychological feature of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.  However, instead of being afraid of heights, speaking in public, having a heart attack, or contamination, individuals with eating disorders are primarily afraid of food, eating, and shape and weight.

Both cognitive-behavioral therapy and family based treatment, two empirically validated treatments for eating disorders, employ exposure techniques.  Exposure works through the process of habituation, the natural neurologically-based tendency to get used to things to which you are exposed for a long time.   During exposure, habituation occurs as people acclimate to their fear and come to realize that nothing actually dangerous is occurring. Habituation promotes new learning of safety, tolerance of fear feelings, and extinction of the fear avoidance urge.  Continue reading “Exposure in the treatment of Eating Disorders”