From Across the Desk: New Approaches to Old Disorders

Anorexia nervosa has a long history. It has been traced back to religious fasting during the Hellenistic era, and reportedly affected Catherine of Siena in the 1300s and Mary, Queen of Scots in the mid-1500s. While Richard Morton is credited with describing AN in 1689, it was Sir William Gull, one of Queen Victoria’s personal physicians, who published a paper on AN in 1873, with a number of case descriptions and treatments. In the same year, French physician Ernest-Charles Lasègue published his paper on AN, De l’Anorexie Hystérique.

Today’s AN research is turning to genetic possibilities, and traces to the human microbiome. According to the National Institutes of Health, these analyses reveal that each individual has his or her own microbiota that play a role in health and disease (see “Looking at Anorexia Nervosa in a New Way,” elsewhere in this issue.)

And in this issue, a pilot program with multi-family therapy for bulimia nervosa is showing positive results. This therapy is less intense than multi-family therapy for AN, and also reduces a patient’s sense of isolation. The effects of isolation during the COVID “lockdown” worsened eating disorder symptoms, as many recent studies have shown. This issue includes two of many such studies, including one in which isolation made some persons more vulnerable to intimate partner violence (see “Loneliness, Social Withdrawal and the Connection to Intimate Partner Violence”).

The New Year is a reminder of the promising advances being made in eating disorder research to combat these age-old disorders.


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