Redefining anorexia may unlock new treatments, therapies

August 21, 2014 by Paul Mayne

(Medical Xpress)—New findings from Western suggest characterizing anorexia as a 'passion' will yield immediate and practical results in terms of treatment and therapy.

The study, led by Louis C. Charland of Western's Rotman Institute of Philosophy, is novel in that philosophers have collaborated with psychiatrists, scientists and to arrive at this new recommended categorization. That categorization compares the condition to other and holds fundamental implications for , especially in the area of decisional capacity to consent to, or refuse, treatment.

The study," Anorexia Nervosa as a Passion," was published in a recent issue of Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology.

"Anorexia nervosa is associated with fear and anxiety over gaining weight and has strong attachments with becoming thin," said Charland , a professor at Western's Arts & Humanities and Health Sciences faculties, as well as the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. "Anorexia nervosa is notorious for being enduring and difficult to treat. Current treatments are highly cognitive in nature and are not always effective."

Charland says categorizing anorexia as a '' may lead to more affective approaches to treatment that target the nature of the disorder more directly.

The research team based the study on the theory of 'passions' proposed by Théodule Ribot, founder of scientific psychology in France. According to Ribot, passions are different from emotions as they organize feelings and emotions over time.

"A passion is relatively stable, lasting months or years. It plays a significant role in motivating, determining, and organizing a person's long-term behavior around a fixed idea," Charland said. "This makes passions different from feelings and emotions, which are simpler states of shorter duration."

A passion as described by Charland and his co-authors, Tony Hope, Anne Stewart and Jacinta Tan, represents an important, recognizable form of behavior, which is invaluable when it leads to creativity or innovation but entirely destructive when it becomes a 'disorder.'

In a published commentary supporting the Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology study, Dr. George Szmukler, a professor of Psychiatry and Society at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, and an honorary consultant psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, called the findings an "original contribution" and "a promising way forward for our understanding and treatment of ."

"Passions force us to work through some difficult issues, for example, justifications for involuntary treatment based on impairments of decision-making capacity," wrote Szmukler, who also notes an interesting parallel with addiction that deserves to be explored.

More information: "Anorexia Nervosa as a Passion." Louis C. Charland, Tony Hope, Anne Stewart, Jacinta Tan. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, Volume 20, Number 4, December 2013, pp. 353-365 | 10.1353/ppp.2013.0049

Related Stories

New approach to diagnosing anorexia nervosa

January 9, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- A new approach for diagnosing patients with anorexia nervosa has been developed at the University of Sydney. The approach could have a significant impact on the treatment and recovery of sufferers, as ...

Global search for anorexia nervosa genes

March 25, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Flinders University Professor Tracey Wade is collaborating with researchers worldwide in a global effort to identify genes that cause eating disorders.

Anorexia fueled by pride about weight loss

August 4, 2014

Positive emotions – even those viewed through a distorted lens – may play an exacerbating role in fueling eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, which has a death rate 12 times higher for females between the ages of ...

Socialising difficulty in anorexia to guide treatment

August 14, 2014

In their investigation of eating disorders and interpersonal problems, researchers have found anorexia nervosa patients have significantly greater difficulties with socialising and assertiveness than those with bulimia nervosa, ...

Recommended for you

Neural efficiency hypothesis confirmed

July 27, 2015

One of the big questions intelligence researchers grapple with is just how differences in intelligence are reflected in the human brain. Researchers at ETH Zurich have succeeded in studying further details relating to suspected ...

Fatherhood makes men fat

July 21, 2015

All those leftover pizza crusts you snatch from your kids' plates add up. Men gain weight after they become fathers for the first time whether or not they live with their children, reports a large, new Northwestern Medicine ...

Words jump-start vision, psychologist's study shows

July 21, 2015

Cognitive scientists have come to view the brain as a prediction machine, constantly comparing what is happening around us to expectations based on experience—and considering what should happen next.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.