Friday, August 03, 2007

No, it's bad news

A couple of days ago I posted about a new study out of Finland showing that anorexia is both--as the media are reporting it--"more common and more transient than previously believed." It took me a few days, but I finally figured out what's bugging me about this: the word transient.

Transient is something that happens for a hour or two and then disappears. Transient is fleeting, momentary, temporary.

Transient is not what happens when the demon of anorexia inhabits someone, body and mind and soul, for three or five or seven years. Transient is not losing most of your adolescence and some of your young adult years to a disease that's like an eclipse of the world-as-you-know-it.

Transient is when they close the street to do construction repairs. Transient is not when the street gets blown up. Even if it gets fixed five years later.

One thing I've learned from Sandy Szwarc is to look behind the rhetoric when it comes to studies and research findings. In this case, it's the interpretation, I suspect, that's bugging me. I don't know if it's the study's authors, or the media reporting it, or both. All I know is that anything that puts a child into hell for longer than an hour or two is not transient. Not at all.


Anonymous said...

Dear Harriet, I'm glad to see your post because when I read their study, it bothered me, too. My main concern was how they defined anorexia. They used DSM-IV definitions and for their "broader" definition added ICD-10 (medical billing codes) of weight loss of at least 15% of body weight... but only if it resulted in BMIs of 19 or less. There are people suffering from severe eating disorders but because they are genetically much larger, won't necessarily get to such small BMIs while needing just as much help and suffering from very similar health issues. Given how they screened and identified EDs, it appears they may be underestimating the numbers. The study was also relatively short-term and didn't look at relapses later in life. I sincerely understand the importance of the positive message here, though, that there definitely is hope for recovery and many have and are fully over ED. But I was left with the impression of the issue being downplayed a bit. Thanks for your great post.

Harriet said...

Hi Sandy,

Hope in EDs is crucial, since so many medical professionals STILL tell patients that they will have their ED for the rest of their lives, they'll just learn to manage it, or other such b.s. But I do feel like this study downplays them--as if EDs might be an adolescent phase rather than a very real and very dangerous illness. We heard some of the "She'll grow out of it" stuff when my d was sick. And no, she wasn't going to grow out of it. I am interested in the mechanism of recovery for these women. I've talked to a number of adults who say, basically, that they were anorexic for years and then just stopped. So maybe there is a mechanism for the less urgently ill. But . . . your point about those with larger body types is well taken. In a similar vein, a friend of mind who's a therapist had a patient who was obese, and when she started suddenly losing weight she couldn't get her doctor to take her seriously. "Isn't it great?" he said. "Keep it up." Turned out she had celiac disease. Yeah, that was great.