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The "anorexic gene".
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Author:  katemaree [ Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:44 pm ]
Post subject:  The "anorexic gene".

I was reading an article by a psychologist who was explaining why the "thin ideal" of today's society is not the cause for people developing restrictive eating disorders. She touched on genetic sand the anorexic gene. Someone then left a comment about what is the anorexic gene and if it's genetic why do we then partake in psychotherapy. The following is her response and while she refers to AN (anorexia nervosa) I think you could just replace that with restrictive eating disorders. This may be a fairly good explanation of why some are genetically predisposed.

I emphasised certain sentences.
Quote:
Twin studies have shown that the risk of developing AN is between 50-80% genetic. A 2010 study demonstrated that single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the gene OPRD1 and near the gene HTR1D confer risk for developing AN. So, to answer your question, there is no single “anorexia gene,” but rather various genes that predispose a person to developing AN in the presence of certain environmental conditions, the most obvious of which is an energy imbalance. So people with AN are genetically wired to respond to low nutrition in a certain way.

The fact that an illness is genetically inherited does NOT mean that psychotherapy doesn’t work, and does NOT mean that a person cannot recover. The pathway into an illness is not necessarily the same as the pathway out of the illness. We are not yet able to alter our genes, but we can alter our behaviors and environments in ways that are conducive to optimal health, given our unique genetic makeup. For example, alcoholism is largely genetic. However, a person who is aware of his family history of alcoholism can avoid having the disease manifest by avoiding alcohol and other addictive substances, and getting psychological treatment for depression, anxiety, etc. so that he is less susceptible to using alcohol to self-medicate. A person who already suffers from alcoholism can recover with the help of psychotherapy, 12-step programs, perhaps a stay in rehab if needed, building a support network of friends who do not drink, etc.


Anyone agree or disagree. I found it interesting to answer the question "well if it's genetic then it can't be changed because we can't change our biological make up - so is recovery possible?"

Author:  wickedrache [ Mon Dec 17, 2012 11:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The "anorexic gene".

^ I also like that the author blows that out of the water off of the get-go. genetic predisposition is not a script for the way life will go; we write that.

I'm also glad that she does point out it's not a certain gene, because ... there really aren't specific 'genes' for things in quite that way, and events can effect gene expression as early as prenatally. It's also interesting to note how there isn't a perfect relationship for eating disorders in twin studies - I know two (separate) identical twins with eating disorders - in one case the other twin also has an eating disorder, in the other case her twin has no trace of an eating disorder. It's interesting. And it also means you can't take the pressure off of environmental triggers in families and in society. I often wonder whether the genetic predisposition for eating disorders might actually be quite high, and also whether it could be a kind of a spectrum - similar to how for some individuals it takes few environmental influences to develop a deep depression and for others it takes a lot of accumulated predisposing events and circumstances to get them there. The application here being, in my mind, the more society is welcoming of all sizes and we evolve past fat hate and dieting culture, the more people who do have the risk of developing EDs will essentially live in a "recovery" environment and be able to live their lives with little to no manifestation, and instead grow and mature into enlightened and healthy people. Ahem.
:topic: maybe.

....edit to add:
It is a pet peeve of mine to say the least that people take the fact that we can see some of this physiologically to mean the "thin ideal" is not a problem. These are sometimes the same people who cite the effects of starvation as observed in the MSE as explanation for anorexic behaviours and experiences. This is ridiculous. All that means is that people who starve - for instance, those who have been pressured by society into dieting - end up putting their brains into eating disorder land and, once again similar to environmentally triggered depression, this can require a great deal of work to undo even though it was externally triggered.
Two girls in my grade 3 elementary school class were teased as "fat". Both of us developed eating disorders. The correlation between bullying and EDs is huge; we also know very well the correlation of EDs with abuse, another signal to disappear and self-damage. And while I know a few women whose experiences with eating disorders began relatively or entirely independently of social influences and the "thin ideal", I know not a single one whose eating disorder has not been exacerbated by and recovery hampered by these social images and refrains.
TW S.I: I mean, self-injury exists independently from popular representations of it but that doesn't mean that for those who already do it it doesn't fuck you up to see it normalised or glamourised, or to see it at all; and it doesn't mean that for the (i believe) very many who could be vulnerable to it, it isn't a major risk factor to be exposed to it in the media. this strikes me as comparable.

Why can't we look at and learn from the science without making dumb claims about other parts of the field, which frankly I doubt are the domain of those who are doing genetic research. And not to get carried away but I don't mind wondering if the suggestion that we could be wrong in "blaming" the "thin ideal" getting the airtime it does has to do with just how powerful are the very fuckers this would let off the hook.

thank you for sharing & your thoughts, Katemaree :)

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