One of the heartening things about the conference so far has been that the amount and kind of discussion around family-based (Maudsley) treatment for anorexia and bulimia. There's been a lot! And all of it's been positive, at least that I've heard. In fact I would say that Maudsley has become something of a buzzword. Some of the people using it seem to have only a hazy idea of what it means, but I guess that's part of the process of this kind of social change.
The general session speakers have been a real mixed bag. This morning's speaker spent more time telling anecdotes about her cats, her children, and herself than anything else, and when she did finally get down to brass tacks, she mostly talked about body image. I'm all for discussions of body image, and how to improve it, but what got to me was her automatic assumptions that disturbances of body image = eating disorders. There was a lot of talk about things like guided visualizations, talking "to" problem body parts, and so on, none of which interests me but hey, I can see that it might be of interest to some people.
The thing that got me, though, was when she tried to connect these kinds of problems and solutions to anorexia. I asked her, if body image disturbance causes e.d.s, why don't we have way more prevalence of anorexia and bulimia? She had no answer. Later, someone else suggested to me that while AN and BN are relatively low incidence, there are a lot of eating disorder not specified cases that don't show up in the statistics. Maybe. What bugs me is the thought of people with anorexia and bulimia who are valiantly trying to recover through these kinds of treatment techniques. There is no evidence to suggest that they're effective. Common sense, and having gone through anorexia with my daughter, tells me they can be worse than useless--they can destructive because they take focus off the things that really matter, like refeeding. So I'm not thrilled with what I heard there.
This afternoon's speaker, Michael Strober, did a very good job of discussion some of the neurobiology of comorbidities. He made one interesting point (well, he made more, but this one was of most interest to me): he said that while most depression that you see in patients with anorexia comes as a result of the starvation, and shows up after and as a byproduct of malnutrition, the heightened anxiety you see almost always precedes the dieting and weight loss behaviors. This was certainly the case in our family: my first inkling that anything was wrong with my daughter was her anxiety level skyrocketed, and she'd never been an anxious kid. No one understands the mechanism, but it was a very interesting observation.
That's it for now--gotta go get in the hot tub! (LOL)
More from San Diego later.