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Psychiatry in the news January 16

These nice people have mentioned me on their list 101 Fascinating Brain Blogs


From the Independent, more reasons to keep teenagers at home Ketamine tops cocaine as new drug of choice. The day before they reported that coffee causes hallucinations

The great obesity myth in the Guardian Dr David Ashton argues that it is inappropriate that obese people are psychiatrically assessed before they have gastric banding surgery. He may be right, I don’t know, but the article didn’t point out that he was writing on behalf of his own weight loss company. He is thus bias with an interest in framing obesity as an addiction and anything that gets in the way of his approach (presumably anything psychological or psychosocial) as inappropriate.

And whilst I was looking into obesity, I happened upon a new condition that someone has made up. Orthorexia Nervosa which appears to apply to those people who have an anorexia type disorder and they will only eat healthy food. Sounds to me like you would need a fine pair of scales to distinguish it from common and garden variety anorexia nervosa. But what do I know?

Finally, in a week where there has been speculation about whether there will soon be a test for autism, and whether this will deprive us of the gifted. Anya Ustaszewski writes in the Guardian I don’t want to be cured of autism thanks. This one, as they say, will run and run.

Did anyone else see anything in the newspapers?


Added 21 January 2009

Read about the ‘coffee causes hallucinations’ headlines on Bad science blog

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  1. No, totally caught up in the autism thing and Baron-Cohen’s hastily issued “I’m not trying to wipe autistics off the face of the Earth” statement…

  2. Orthorexia Nervosa seems more like a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or another anxiety disorder than an eating disorder to me. It sounds like the food-related equivalent of somebody who obsessively washes their hands after touching anything they think might be ‘dirty’ or ‘impure’ or ‘unclean’. But that’s just my opinion.

    As for the obesity ‘myth’, Dr. David Ashton is kind of missing the point. There is always the possibility that somebody who is obese is suffering from an eating disorder, and if that is the case, they need treatment for that disorder, not a gastric bypass operation. Furthermore, if somebody has a serious mental health condition, that may affect their ability to cope with or comply with the extremely limited diet that is necessary after such surgery to prevent both re-expansion of the stomach or possibly serious internal injury or the stomach rupturing. Psychological screening is therefore surely a necessity, not some sort of blame game.

    More to the point, according to him there is no ‘credible scientific evidence’ to support the claim that obesity may be caused by mental illness. Well I would like to see HIS ‘credible scientific evidence’ that obesity is in fact invariably a biological problem which according to him is ‘to a large extent, genetically inherited’. There isn’t any. Sure you can say that obesity ‘runs in families’ but where is the credible scientific evidence that it’s genetic as opposed to environmentally inherited from parents? If obesity is genetic, then show me the gene that causes it.

    That’s just bad science.