Eating Disorders: In The News

'Normal' Educates and Entertains

Normal" is a musical that tackles the weighty and relevant subject of eating disorders and how one young girl's struggle affects her entire family.

Artistic Director Chase Kniffen writes in his program notes that "Normal" not only deserves a place in Stage 1's inaugural season, but that it was, in fact, the reason he wanted to create a new theatrical venue in central Virginia dedicated to new and recent works by American playwrights - especially musicals.

"Normal" fits the bill. The play, written by Yvonne Adrian with lyrics by Cheryl Stern, opened off Broadway in 2005 and has apparently not been professionally produced elsewhere since.

Anorexia is not a common topic for a play, much less a musical, but Kniffen and the cast of seven provide an open, in-depth and intimate view of the subject as well as the dynamics of the Freeman family as mother, father, daughter and son struggle to come to terms with the layers of dissonance that would drive a young girl to starve herself to be pretty "to the bone."

With strong voices and solid acting by veterans Ford Flannagan (the dad, Robert) and Julie Fulcher (the mom, Gayla), Dave Amadee's authentically touching portrayal of the concerned brother, Zachary, and Ali Thibodeau's debut in the heart-wrenching role of Polly, the show has a lot to offer. Angela Shipley, Debra Wagoner and Terri Moore round out the cast as a sort of Greek chorus in white, filling in the many roles of doctor, nurse, therapist, flight attendants and the like.

Read in full here.

Hospital Funding Dispute Depriving Malnourished Children In South

A dispute between the Health Ministry and Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva is delaying the establishment of a clinic to treat eating disorders among children. The patients, who are under-weight, under-nourished, and require intensive medical treatment, have been forced to travel to the center of the country for treatment.

Following the publication of a report in Haaretz a year and a half ago highlighting the lack of these services in the north and south of the country, the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee of the Knesset convened and directed the Health Ministry to develop a plan to provide hospital and out-patient facilities for the outlying population.

The Health Ministry's chief psychiatrist, Yaakov Polkovich, developed a plan to provide hospital facilities for these children in Haifa and Safed in the north, as well as in the south. But no budget has been allocated to make the facilities available in the south.

Polkovich told Haaretz that eight hospital beds for children with eating disorders were planned for Soroka Medical Center, in addition to out-patient facilities for another eight children. He said the Be'er Sheva hospital opposed the plan because it was seeking Health Ministry funding of about NIS 6 million instead for a separate building at the hospital at which these services would be provided. Polkovich said the dispute is ultimately over funding the project.

According to Health Ministry statistics, there are about 70,000 young Israelis, including many adolescents, who are malnourished due to anorexia and bulimia. In recent years, eating disorders have also been noted among young Bedouin residents of the south, who also have to seek treatment in the country's center. The Health Ministry has generally refused to fund travel expenses for these patients and their parents.

The Clalit health maintenance organization, which operates Soroka, indicated it is looking to the Health Ministry for funds. A spokesman for Soroka added "in order to provide comprehensive treatment to children with eating disorders, we are prepared to build a special unit with ten hospital beds and eight out-patient beds. We therefore need full funding for construction, equipment and ongoing operation of the facility. The Health Ministry has proposed providing partial funding which would not provide for the ongoing operation of the building."

Read in full here.

KU Conducts New Research On Anorexia Nervosa

Researchers at the University of Karachi (KU) Department of Biochemistry have discovered that the appetite of patients suffering from anorexia nervosa could be increased by administering an amino acid called Triptophan into the body.

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder that decreases appetite and the will to eat. Dr Darkhshan J. Haleem, senior professor at the department, along with her PhD student Tafheem Malik, found out that starvation for long periods decreases the production of serotonin in the brain. The administration of the amino acid Triptophan alleviates the levels of serotonin, thus inducing hunger in the patient.

Both Malik and Dr Haleem will travel to Chicago to attend the 24th International Symposium on Cerebral Blood Flow, Metabolism and Function being held from June 29 to July 3.

“Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric illness that describes an eating disorder characterised by extremely low body weight and body image distortion, with an obsessive fear of gaining weight,” explained Dr Naeem Siddiqui, a psychiatrist working with the Aga Khan University and the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplant.

According to him, individuals who have anorexia are known to control body weight by voluntary starvation, purging, excessive exercise or other weight control measures such as diet pills or diuretic drugs. The disorder is a complex condition involving neurobiological, psychological, and sociological components, and can ultimately lead to death. While the condition primarily affects adolescent females, approximately 10 per cent of people diagnosed with it are male.

While the diagnosis of anorexia can be aided through biological tests, the diagnosis is based on a combination of behaviour, physical characteristics, reported beliefs and experiences of the patient. Anorexia is typically diagnosed by a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist or other suitably qualified clinician. Notably, diagnostic criteria are intended to assist clinicians, and are not representative of what an individual sufferer feels or experiences while living with the illness.

Read in full here.

Was I Born Anorexic?

Just the other morning, my therapist and I agreed that pretty much everything wrong with me can be traced, in one way or another, back to my parents. This revelation, which has cost my insurance company thousands of dollars, is hardly groundbreaking. Long before the first neurotic was chained to an asylum’s basement wall, we have known that our parents ruin our lives. It has taken the miracle of modern genetic science, however, to discover that this is not totally their fault.

As a small child, I remember telling my mother that when I grew up I wanted to weigh 110 pounds.

According to a new and seemingly conclusive neuropsychological study, anorexia is the latest on the list of the various genetic maladies we can inherit from our parents. The researchers conducted neuropsychological testing on over 200 girls and young women being treated in hospitals for anorexia in the U.S., the U.K., and Norway. The results showed that 70 percent of the patients had suffered damage to their neurotransmitters, had undergone subtle changes in the structures of their brains, or both. They also found that these conditions occurred in the womb and were not due to external or environmental factors.

This news is of special interest to me. For a period of roughly three years, between the ages of 18 and 21, I suffered from a relatively serious case of anorexia. I know this revelation may be difficult to believe if you’ve ever seen me in a buffet situation (or if you have eyes), but I assure you the period is well documented in my medical and psychiatric records.

Read in full here.

sources linked above.


Michael said...

How can we sit here and let this disease kill our friends and family? I have already lost someone to this mess and I pray that people become more aware of this disorder.