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New DSM criteria for anorexia may help more people


With the release of the updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) this year, anorexia has gotten somewhat of a makeover.

New updates have broadened the criteria for the condition by eliminating a weight requirement. The move is critical, health experts say, because it changes the focus of anorexia from being too thin to the psychological and behavioral aspects of the disease.

Not a weight disorder

David Hahn, medical director of The Renfrew Center of Philidelphia, said that the previous criteria held that anorexia is a weight disorder - which is not the case.

“A lot of people need help even if they don’t narrowly fit the definition of an illness,” he told Scientific American.

The updated classification holds that the pathological behaviors of anorexia are what truly define the condition, even if an individual is not at a very low weight.

Early intervention

Changing the criteria for anorexia can help pediatricians, family members or parents to spot an eating disorder earlier on "if it’s understood that anorexia doesn’t only mean underweight," Hahn said.

Adolescents who may not look the part, he continued, will hopefully get the treatment they need. This is especially important given that many young people with eating disorders are diagnosed with ED-NOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) - if they are exhibiting characteristics of several different types of eating disorders, like purging, starving or using laxatives.

"Before, patients were very sick before meeting criteria, and the evidence is pretty clear that if you interfere in anorexia before there’s been significant weight loss, the outcomes are much better and the illness is easier to treat in an outpatient setting,” said Kimberli McCallum, founder and medical director of eating disorder clinic McCallum Place in Saint Louis.

More information about the DSM updates can be found on the American Psychiatric Association's website.

Source: Scientific American