March 9, 2007

Eating Disorder Events Offer Understanding, Help

"... Siegfried said misconceptions about eating disorders persist, but she pointed to recent research as reason to hope for more understanding and better treatment..."

Samford took part in the 2007 Birmingham Eating Disorders Week starting Feb. 25 as part of nationwide recognition of a potentially lethal illness. The week's events, hosted in conjunction with the Alabama Network for Eating Disorders Awareness (ALNEDA,) were held at Samford and other local colleges and universities. A final event at Birmingham Botanical Gardens was postponed until March 28.

Psychology professor Nicole Siegfried said organizers enjoyed a very good response to the week's events, which included screenings for eating disorders, lectures and the screening of the HBO documentary film Thin.

Siegfried noted that eating disorders are a problem at many colleges and universities, including Samford, but she warned that overestimating the prevalence rate of such disorders could make them more dangerous.

"The research conducted by my lab reveals that the prevalence rate of eating disordered behaviors [at Samford] is consistent with the rates at other universities," she said. The danger, she added, is that a mistaken assumption that eating disorders are unusually common at Samford could serve to normalize disordered behavior and thus discourage sufferers from seeking treatment. Overestimation of prevalence rate could also lead to glamorization of eating disorders, she said.

Siegfried said misconceptions about eating disorders persist, but she pointed to recent research as reason to hope for more understanding and better treatment. "A genetic predisposition for eating disorders, specifically anorexia, has been identified," she said.  She explained that the discovery is particularly important because, "compared to other psychiatric disorders, eating disorders do not receive as much insurance coverage, even though eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder". She said the new research may encourage insurance companies to recognize that an eating disorder is an illness rather than a choice.

Birmingham's rescheduled Eating Disorders Week event will feature an expert panel consisting of Ken Olson, MD, PhD (physician), Carolyn Price, RD (Dietitian), Mary Boggiano, PhD (Professor and Researcher), Maureen Petrofsky (family member), Ellen Durham (recovered individual), Lane Hartline, RN (Nurse), Dominic Maxwell, MD (psychiatrist) and Gayle Janzen, PhD (psychologist).

The event will take place at Birmingham Botanical Gardens at 7 p.m. on March 28.

More Info

Samford's Department of Psychology

Alabama Network for Eating Disorders Awareness (ALNEDA)

Eating Disorders Coalition