BOOK REVIEWS: Handbook of Eating Disorders. Second Edition

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April 2005 Volume 16, Number 2
©2005 Gürze Books

(Janet Treasure, Ulrike Schmidt and Eric Van Furth, eds. John Wiley and Sons, Sussex, England, 2003. 479 pages. $115.11)

In this welcome second edition, three capable and accomplished scholars in the field of eating disorders bring together a star-studded cast to thoroughly review current conceptions about the assessment, treatment and outcome of eating disorders from a predominantly European viewpoint (47 of 52 authors are European). My sense is that the North American academic community stays reasonably current with the active European eating disorders research programs, but that this work may be slower to trickle down to clinicians in the field. I don’t mean to imply that North American and European concepts are entirely different from each other but, from my viewpoint, it’s important for North American clinicians to fully appreciate European perspectives on these issues for several reasons. First, diagnostic criteria using the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases) differ somewhat from the standard DSM criteria used in the United States. The difference is slight, but enough to make us really think about what diagnosis is all about and what it intends to accomplish. Second, some of the assessment instruments now used by Europeans differ from those most commonly used in North America. Third, since health service delivery systems and reimbursement patterns for treating eating disorders patients in Europe differ from those in North America, and sometimes differ from country to country, it’s important for North Americans to consider whether any of these features are preferable to ours, whether they are transportable, and, ultimately, whether they can lead to better outcomes. Although clear answers to many of these questions are not available, this volume goes a long way toward informing us about how Europeans see and treat eating disorders, with very valuable lessons for all of us.

While the book comprehensively covers biology, psychology, family, social, epidemiological and cultural issues, our space limitations prevent a chapter-by-chapter analysis. Chapters that were particularly thought-provoking for me because they differ to some extent from what appears in other current American handbooks include those addressing concepts of eating disorders; attachment and childhood development; sociocultural theories of eating disorders: an evolution in thought; family, burden of care and social consequences; assessment and motivation; cognitive-analytic therapy; and eating disorders services.

Written in a clear and lively manner, this volume provides an excellent text that is certain to provide continuing education for experts and masters as well as a useful introduction for novices who would like to know how eating disorders are understood and dealt with elsewhere.

— J.Y.

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