Researchers Make New Genetic Discovery About Eating Disorder Risk Factors

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa take another life every 62 minutes, yet little is still known about its root causes. Recent research ha taken several steps toward changing that.

Published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study aimed to use genetics as a marker for looking deeper into why anorexia is so deadly to so many people. Researchers studied the DNA of nearly 15,000 people — some with the disorder and some without. They found associations between anorexia and both psychiatric and metabolic conditions.

In this case, “psychiatric conditions” refers to schizophrenia and neuroticism. Metabolic conditions associated with anorexia include high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, type 1 diabetes, and other autoimmune conditions.

This means that, genetically, people with these conditions are also more likely to carry the genes often associated with this type of eating disorder. If you have type 1 diabetes, you also likely carry genetic markers for anorexia.

This isn’t the first time experts have made note of the role genetics play in the onset of eating disorders. However, it does add another small piece to the very large puzzle that explains these conditions. These illnesses are extremely complex. Genetic, environmental, psychological, as well as other factors increase a person’s risk for developing disordered eating patterns. If someone does develop an eating disorder, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish exactly what caused it.

Therefore, it’s important for health care professionals, parents, and friends to be aware of the complexity of these disorders. Recovering from an eating disorder, regardless of its causes, is stressful for all parties. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, the most important first step is to encourage them — or yourself — to find help. Figuring out why it’s happening comes later.

Treatment for anorexia and related conditions can occur in a number of different formats. Unless a person is in a medical state severe enough to mandate it, hospital stays aren’t always necessary as part of a treatment plan. Outpatient treatment is one option, allowing a person to go about their day as usual with the exception of scheduled appointments with therapists and other members of a treatment team.

Residential treatment, though more costly, allows someone to focus their full attention on rehabilitation without distraction, along with teaching them valuable skills for coping with their disorder as they prepare to transition back into the real world.

It’s up to the individual, their loved ones, and their treatment team to decide what’s best to ensure positive results in the months to come. Whether an eating disorder manifests because of genetic factors or another underlying cause, there is hope.

Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?

One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.

But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.

If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.
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