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Friday 2 March 2012

Hands up - my genes are to blame.......

"Anyone who wishes to be a successful advocate for patients and families affected by EDs must be thoroughly educated about the subject and open to considering information and ideas that may make them personally uncomfortable. " COULD NOT AGREE MORE. And, if EDs are genetic 'brain flaws', then isn't it possible that parents could have those same genetic 'flaws'? Otherwise, where would their children get them"

I have heard some pretty crass arguments about why parents are to blame for eating disorders.  There are some cases of people (and I am including men and boys in this as well) developing an eating disorder after abuse, bullying, death and a myriad of other environmental pressures.  There are other cases where an eating disorder can develop alongside another brain disorder, such as OCD, autism, schizophrenia.  I have heard theories on mothers being stressed in pregnancy, mothers going on diets, enmeshment, overprotective mothers and fathers, cold and distant mothers and fathers, conflict resolution issues, sibling rivalry allowed to fester - I could go on.....

To me, the above sentence reads as if I have to beat myself up over my genetics, because my daughter developed a brain disorder.

Sorry, I disagree with Eugenics.


  1. surely your genetics are your parents' fault not yours

  2. woahh that statement is SO far from 'eugenics' it's ridiculous. not a valid comparison...

  3. Anonymous 2

    The problem with the written word is that however carefully and thoughtfully you write, you have no control over how it is read.

  4. Personally, I see no point in ascribing blame to anyone as far as EDs are concerned. And the link between genomics and EDs is not a simple one. At present, no-one knows precisely how genomics and risk for EDs develop. There are lots of hypotheses; lots of theories, but the truth of the matter is that no-one knows for sure. Family studies do suggest that in terms of risk of developing AN (for example), a significant proportion of the variance may be ascribed to inherited factors. But that is about all. There is no evidence that AN, itself can be inherited. It would seem more likely that the inherited characteristics are temperamental traits (e.g. anxiety) and patterns of cognitive processing (e.g. attention to detail and poor set shifting). and, of course, there is epigenetic phenomena to consider.

    Now, if a person inherits the aforementioned characteristics, they may be at risk of a variety of mental illnesses and not just AN. Research has also shown that AN and autism run in families - as well as AN and major depression, and AN and anxiety disorders. Environmental triggers are many and are very variable, and what is important is how the person with inherent vulnerabilities makes sense of the world around them and things that happen to them.

    From a personal perspective, I DID develop AN after trauma: bullying and rape - and NOT by my parents, I hasten to add. My parents knew nothing of these traumas because I 'clammed up' and couldn't talk about them, to anyone. But I also have many inherent characteristics that make me vulnerable to getting stuck in ways of thinking and behaviour patterns, alongside longstanding anxiety and OCD.

    We cannot become too reductive in trying to explain why EDs develop. It seems pretty clear that once energy deprivation and starvation set in, that many inherent traits are intensified - including poor set-shifting, superior attention to detail, obsessionality, confused identity/sense of self etc. Hence, re-feeding and weight resoration with continued good nutrition are absolutely vital to recovery from AN. And such treatment may be all that is needed for some people.

    But if a person has experienced trauma before the onset of the ED, that trauma has often affected their brain functioning also. And trauma deeply affects they way a person feels about themself - and that can include the 'meaning' of the anorexic behaviours to a person. Re-feeding alone doesn't may not help such individuals.

    But coming round to the issue of 'blame'.. From a personal perspective, would it help me to confront the people who traumatised me at age 10-11 or to see them punished in some way? I actually feel not. What happened, happened. I don't feel that digging up the past will help me in any way. But therapy, AFTER weight gain has been vital in terms of helping me to understand myself. Do I blame my parents for passing on certain characteristics? No, of course not.

    Sorry for the essay xxx