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New study could change the way we think about, and treat, Anorexia

While the eating disorder Anorexia can cause extreme weight loss, a new study may have experts looking at the disorder from an opposite perspective – and considering the possibility that naturally thin people may be more susceptible to the disorder, to begin with.

The study, published this month in the journal Nature Genetics, found genetic links between Anorexia and genetic markers for other diseases, but also natural traits tied to people’s metabolism.

“What this study actually suggests is that people with anorexia may have a predisposition to these metabolic risk factors that actually make it harder for them to gain weight when they lose it or make them more susceptible to anorexia, which is different than what we thought before,” said Psychiatrist Dr. Mirjana Domakonda, from the Institute of Living in Hartford.

The study’s authors said the findings were as much as a starting point than an ending point in terms of understanding the disease, and what those links represent, but they expressed hope that someday, Anorexia could be treated with medication.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have FDA approved medications for anorexia, but we do have some that help some of the psychiatric comorbidities, like anxiety and depression that could contribute to people getting worse,” said Dr. Domakonda.

That study also found genetic links between anorexia and mental health disorders like anorexia, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Dr. Domakonda said most of the current treatment protocols involve cognitive behavioral therapy, but treatments can often involve the whole family.

“Because kids don’t live in a vacuum, as much as we like to think we can just treat the child and everything in the family is going to get better, that’s unrealistic,” she said, “so the family therapy teaches parents what is a healthy meal and when we tell parents to sit down with their kid and eat a normal meal, sometimes they don’t even know what that is.”

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