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.

Explore further: Socialising difficulty in anorexia to guide treatment

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

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, ...

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 ...

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.

Study asks if recovery tales help those with anorexia

April 30, 2014
Many mental health organisations, including those treating people with anorexia nervosa, feature testimonials on their websites from survivors and sufferers who describe the road to recovery.

Anorexia nervosa study finds inner conflicts over the 'real' self that have treatment implications

November 22, 2011
"It feels like there's two of you inside – like there's another half of you, which is my anorexia, and then there's the real K, the real me, the logic part of me, and it's a constant battle between the two." - 36 year ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

Infants know what we like best, study finds

July 27, 2017
Behind the chubby cheeks and bright eyes of babies as young as 8 months lies the smoothly whirring mind of a social statistician, logging our every move and making odds on what a person is most likely to do next, suggests ...

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

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.