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If you or someone in your life has/had an eating disorder - book recommendation
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I'm making my way through Decoding Anorexia by Carrie Arnold. It features her story, and anecdotes from others, as illustrative examples of understanding and treating eating disorders from a biological, brain-based perspective. That is, it presents a ton of science that an ED sufferer's brain is wired differently and these chemical differences cause a lot of the symptoms. This is a contrasting perspective to believing the illness is entirely socially situated (basically the position that the media and controlling parents cause EDs). While it's not either/or (both sociocultural and biological factors contribute), the science is fascinating, explanatory, and helpful.

I consider myself 'in remission' and the science explains SO MUCH for me. If you had an eating disorder, are the relative of a person with an eating disorder, or an MD that sees ED patients, this is a must-read.

Proud member of Fishtwitch and the ST Grammar Police
disclaimer: I am a PhD, not a medical doctor. The closest I get to surgery is topology.
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Re: If you or someone in your life has/had an eating disorder - book recommendation [Dr. Tigerchik] [ In reply to ]
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So interesting Ally. Does the book explain the origins of the different wiring?
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Re: If you or someone in your life has/had an eating disorder - book recommendation [johnnybefit] [ In reply to ]
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So interesting Ally. Does the book explain the origins of the different wiring?

By 'wiring', I meant that the author provides evidence that anorexia sufferers' brains are chemically different than non-sufferers. I'll add to this with some examples as I keep reading.

Proud member of Fishtwitch and the ST Grammar Police
disclaimer: I am a PhD, not a medical doctor. The closest I get to surgery is topology.
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Re: If you or someone in your life has/had an eating disorder - book recommendation [Dr. Tigerchik] [ In reply to ]
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Dr. Tigerchik wrote:
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So interesting Ally. Does the book explain the origins of the different wiring?


By 'wiring', I meant that the author provides evidence that anorexia sufferers' brains are chemically different than non-sufferers. I'll add to this with some examples as I keep reading.

Ok excellent. Hoping to hear more about this.
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Re: If you or someone in your life has/had an eating disorder - book recommendation [johnnybefit] [ In reply to ]
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Here's a good excerpt from p. 90

"Women who have recovered from anorexia - both the binge/purge type and the restricting type - have unusually high levels of serotonin in their brains (Frank et al., 2002).... a different study found a link between levels of serotonin and a drive for thinness (Bailer et al., 2004).
High levels of serotonin have been linked to traits like obssessionality, perfectionism, harm avoidance, and a need for symmetry. As well, serotonin is crucial in the regulation of mood, appetite, feeding behaviors, and motor activity... researchers believe these alterations [in serotonin levels] existed before the onset of anorexia and likely contributed to the development of the disease (Kaye et al., 2005) The body makes serotonin using the amino acid tryptophan, which the body needs to obtain from food. Without adequate food, the body doesn't have enough tryptophan and therefore can't make enough serotonin. Consequently, serotonin levels drop. It's why people with anorexia often report that starving makes them feel better. It lowers levels of distress and makes them feel less anxious.
... People without anorexia don't have these pre-existing high serotonin levels, so the serotonin drop that comes from food deprivation or dieting doesn't feel pleasant. Instead, dieting makes them irritable and cranky... someone with anorexia, however, gets a bit of relief from anxiety, and finds this a bit of a reward for sticking to their rigid meal and exercise routines."

Proud member of Fishtwitch and the ST Grammar Police
disclaimer: I am a PhD, not a medical doctor. The closest I get to surgery is topology.
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Re: If you or someone in your life has/had an eating disorder - book recommendation [Dr. Tigerchik] [ In reply to ]
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Really interesting stuff there TC, thanks for posting it. High serotonin levels has also been linked to Social Anxiety Disorder.
Does the author believe if we can control serotonin levels, we can help cure anorexia? Also, if we lower the high serotonin levels will this not lead to maybe the patient becoming depressed?

Edited to write: just read lowering serotonin doesn't lead to depression, so ignore my last question!
Last edited by: Anna s: Jun 23, 17 8:05
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Re: If you or someone in your life has/had an eating disorder - book recommendation [Anna s] [ In reply to ]
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High serotonin levels has also been linked to Social Anxiety Disorder.
And other anxiety disorders. The book provides a lot of evidence of the links between anorexia and anxiety.

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Does the author believe if we can control serotonin levels, we can help cure anorexia?

She doesn't engage in any sort of speculation. The book is written as half literature review and half anecdotes (anec-data ;-) and it leaves the reader to draw his/her own conclusions about what the implications of the science are for treatment.

Anecdotally, my illness was a coping mechanism for anxiety. Reading about the science behind that has been very interesting for me, as I had suspected for quite awhile that I had an anxiety disorder that manifested itself as anorexia. I can also say that taking an SSRI (which I've been doing for 8 years) has helped with my anxiety a lot. I had four years between reaching a healthy weight and starting to take the SSRI that were still a constant battle with anxiety.

Proud member of Fishtwitch and the ST Grammar Police
disclaimer: I am a PhD, not a medical doctor. The closest I get to surgery is topology.
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Re: If you or someone in your life has/had an eating disorder - book recommendation [Dr. Tigerchik] [ In reply to ]
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I always thought SSRIs increased serotonin, but I've just read that in the long-term they decrease serotonin, which totally supports the author's argument and why you feel an improvement. Very interesting.

Would be interesting to find natural ways to decrease serotonin.
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Re: If you or someone in your life has/had an eating disorder - book recommendation [Anna s] [ In reply to ]
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I always thought SSRIs increased serotonin, but I've just read that in the long-term they decrease serotonin, which totally supports the author's argument and why you feel an improvement. Very interesting.

Google tells me SSRIs do indeed increase serotonin. Huh. I don't know.

Proud member of Fishtwitch and the ST Grammar Police
disclaimer: I am a PhD, not a medical doctor. The closest I get to surgery is topology.
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Re: If you or someone in your life has/had an eating disorder - book recommendation [Dr. Tigerchik] [ In reply to ]
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I don't know either, but I came across this article this morning:

https://www.ihealthtube.com/...ain-serotonin-levels

How factually correct it is I can't say.
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