Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fighting Stigma with Science

This video is required watching for anyone with an interest in eating disorders. Cynthia Bulik is one of the leading researchers in the field, and this interview, done by Jane Cawley, co-chair of Maudsley Parents, is compelling and important. Take a look.

Fighting Stigma with Science from Jane Cawley on Vimeo.


Anonymous said...

This video is full of lies and fat hatred. It explicitly states that binge eating causes weight gain/obesity and that anorexia only exists in the underweight. We know that this is false due to the science behind genetic setpoints. This video serves only to perpetuate these myths and encourage fat hatred. I am very dissapointed that such content has been posted on the fatosphere feed which has traditionally been a safe space for those of us sensitive to such content.

Harriet said...

Obviously, I don't agree, or I wouldn't have posted it.

There's a difference between saying, for instance, that binge eating causes weight gain, and that all fat people binge eat. I think that's what you're objecting to, the latter, and that's not what Bulik has to say.

Furthermore, the focus of this interview is on anorexia and bulimia, not binge eating or obesity. Try to see what's there rather than what you're afraid of.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you posted this.
I know that it's hard for some to hear talk about binge eating disorder without hearing that all fat people must have it, but the actual percentages of people with binge eating disorder is cited as much lower than the overall percentage of people who are considered to be overweight and obese in the U.S. population.
It actually gave me very valuable information about not only eating disorders but also other heritable mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, and the studies being conducted.

Anonymous said...

Just FYI, I'm pretty sure that "Anonymous" above is a troll.

Harriet said...

Maybe. I posted the comment in case it's not, and someone truly does feel that way--I at least want to address the issue.

But thanks. :-)

Anonymous said...

So glad to see this posted here, Harriet! The genetics aspect of EDs are really interesting and it's very heartening to hear, "Families are our best allies in fighting these illnesses." This is a message that needs to spread far and wide.

Anonymous said...


I am so glad to see you posting this video here. It is amazing that with all the infomration becoming available on genetic roots of ED, paticualrly anorexia, that we still have the kinds of mis-information that appears in today's NY Times Book Review in the review of "Going Hungry" by Ginia Bellafante who comments "The happy family is, of course, rarely anorexia's breeding ground". And in the end seems to imply that anorexia is a "sin". I am tempted to write her but sometimes wonder if it would do any good. I just got through an email exchange with a treatment center whose website refers to "a high incidence of sexual and phsycial abuse among victims of ED"; I had little impact on them--sadly , these stereotypes seem very ingrained and the "professionals" determined to continue to promulgate them. Thanks you for all that you are doing to try to change these perceptions

Sarah (sc)

Harriet said...

I read that too, Sarah. But the reviewer picked that up from the book iself. I was invited to be part of that anthology and refused precisely because of the editor's distorted beliefs. I didn't want to be the beknighted parent representative in a book full of distortions and misconceptions.

Anonymous said...

The key issue I take away from this interview is the potential for discovery vs. the potential for funding it. My inclination is that pharmaceutical companies wouldn't be terribly interested in pursuing this with research money unless the hypotheses postulate a future for drug intervention. That leaves government funding and stiff competition ... or activism by patients and families. But, therein, comes the stigma issue coupled with acuity and treatment intensity that makes dogged attention to the cause difficult. The ideas are promising; follow-up seems open-ended and unanswered.

Anonymous said...

Anon Mom,
You're right. Federal funding is the KEY issue. EDs are draining for families in many way and the stigma of the disorder gets in the way of parents feeling empowered to do anything. That's precisely the reason I shot the videos and worked to get them of mainstream sites with wide viewership. I didn't want to limit viewership to just Maudsley Parents, much as I love our site, because I think this message deserves the widest possible distribution. Stay tuned for more to come.

Ai Lu said...

What an amazing video.

As someone just going into the field of clinical psychology, I hope to see EDs get their due in the gene-environment research bonanza we're seeing these days.

I also loved how Dr. Bulik pointed out that by understanding genes, we can understand environmental factors better, too. Genetic research is so complex and so worthwhile -- I hope that this GWAS project gets funded, but I disagree about the issue being mainly drug companies' opposition. Pharmaceuticals have a lot to gain if, by pinpointing the biological substrates of EDs, we can devise psychopharmocological treatment (i.e. drugs) for such disorders. I wonder if stigma is not the biggest barrier here.

~Ai Lu

Anonymous said...

I wasn't saying that drug companies are or would be opposed to participation, but it could be a significant effort recruiting them, since the early premise points to different brains but not necessarily pharmaceutical "answers" to addressing neurobiological markers.

Dr. Bulik said it, and it is often repeated in journal articles and research studies ... that hoped-for outcomes of future investigations is better understanding. There is still a pretty big leap from, first, understanding and, then, determining whether drugs would be/could be part of the equation.

It seems there are at least two parts here, and getting funding for the first, exploratory part ... the more open-ended questions ... would be more challenging. Once there is some data to indicate there might be pharmaceutical doors to be opened, then moneyed interests might sign on.

Even then, would the population potential recoup invested dollars? Are these patients who can afford any potential drugs? Do they have prescription coverage or can they afford out-of-pocket payment for new-patent meds? How will these be tested ... patients with EDs are vulnerable and have many variables that could affect trials (including not being stable enough to participate or not wanting to participate ... people with anorexia and bulimia already have control issues and medication-resistance/reluctance and have not (save some limited drugs in bulimia) demonstrated effectiveness, especially in malnourished patients).