Scientists report finding gene mutations connected to eating disorders

Scientists have discovered two gene mutations that they believe are associated with an increased risk of eating disorders.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia often run in families, but these eating disorders are complex, and it has proved difficult  to identify the paths. But, using two families with very high incidences of eating disorders, scientists say they found rare mutations, one in each family, that were associated with the people who had the disorders.

The study suggests that mutations that decrease the activity of a protein that turns on the expression of other genes – called a transcription factor – increase the risk. That transcription factor is estrogen-related receptor alpha, or ESRRA.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are debilitating and occur in 1% to 3% of women, less frequently among men. They are among the deadliest of psychiatric diseases. They are thought to occur as a result of a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors.

The scientists reported their results in Tuesday’s Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“It’s basically a matter of finding out what the people with the disorder share in common that people without the disease don’t have,” Michael Lutter, the senior author of the study and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, said in a statement. One challenge, he said, is finding families large enough to provide “statistical power.”

Full story of gene mutations and eating disoders at the Los Angeles Times

30 colleges receive mental health ‘seal of approval’

The Jed Foundation, a national non-profit organization that advocates suicide prevention among college students, has named the first 30 colleges to receive a ‘seal of approval’ for their respective mental health resources on campus.

Students beginning their college search are bombarded with a variety of metrics ranking schools on their SAT scores, acceptance rates and even the attractiveness of their students.

But the Jed Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates suicide prevention among college students, wants to put one deciding factor on prospective students’ radars that they say is too often underestimated: mental health services.

According to a USA TODAY study conducted in 2006, 40% of all college freshmen’s deaths are due to suicide.

“Most mental illnesses manifest between 18 and 25, and even if they haven’t had struggles with it, it doesn’t mean they won’t face those struggles in college,” says John McPhee, the foundation’s executive director. “It’s really important that they use those things in the college selection process.”

Full story of mental health seals of approval at USA Today

5 Signs Your Teen Needs Mental Health Treatment

Teens go through emotional ups and downs all the time. Hormones are changing, life can seem overwhelming, and without much life experience, a young adult can feel misguided. When parents are busy working, or a natural separation from family occurs, teens may turn to friends instead of parents.

Peer support can be helpful for certain issues. But when the symptoms of a mental illness are present, more than a good friend is needed.

The problem is, teens may not understand what the feelings they experience mean. As a parent, it’s important to stay connected so that you notice any changes or any symptoms of a mental illness in your child.

Mental illness includes depression; anxiety; bipolar disorder;schizophrenia; borderline personality disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); attention-deficit disorder (ADD); attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and many more disorders that can interfere with your teen’s daily life.

In an effort to self-medicate — to control the symptoms of the undiagnosed and untreated mental illness — a teen without help may turn to drugs, alcohol, or eating disorders to feel better, to escape, to numb out, or to feel in control.

Full story of signs for mental health treatment at PsychCentral

Personality may be key to genetics of bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder vary significantly from their unaffected relatives, and from healthy controls, on several measures of personality, a study shows.

Furthermore, genetic analysis revealed suggestive linkage peaks for those traits that were heritable, potentially proving useful for the identification of genes underlying susceptibility to bipolar disorder.

“The results of our analyses suggest that personality dimensions may have utility in dissecting the genetic architecture of BD [bipolar disorder],” the researchers write in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Personality scores on the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) were collected from 428 members of 101 families in which one or more people had a bipolar diagnosis or major depressive disorder. An independent sample of 53 control participants with no personal or family history of mental illness was also recruited.

The TCI is a self-administered true/false questionnaire that assesses personality in seven dimensions. It assesses four temperament dimensions – novelty seeking, harm avoidance, reward dependence and persistence – and three character dimensions – self-directedness, cooperativeness and self-transcendence.

Full story of personality and bipolar disorder at News Medical

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

July National Minority Mental Health Awareness MonthIn 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives proclaimed July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (NMMHAM). Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and veterans disability appeals representation, is offering free poster downloads to promote the observance, which highlights the need for improved access to mental health services among minorities.

The stigma associated with mental illness is often a barrier to treatment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), levels of stigma associated with mental health conditions are much higher in multicultural communities. “Stigma affects everyone,” said NAMI board member Clarence Jordan. “But stigma has a greater impact in communities of color.”

Jordan added that NMMHAM helps start conversations about mental illness within diverse communities. “There is still a great lack of awareness of what mental illnesses are and what one can do to recover,” said Jordan. “It [NMMHAM] takes it to churches, hits the airwaves; there are articles in the paper that people will read.”

Mental illness is a leading cause of disability in the U.S., and medical documentation from mental health professionals is essential when applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and SSDI. The Social Security Administration administers both programs.

Full story of national minority mental health awareness month at PR Web

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin,

How Your Mental Health May Be Impacting Your Career

Mental Health Impacting Your CareerOne American in two develops a mental illness at some point in their lives. At any moment in time, about 20 per cent of the population in developed countries has a mental illness.

We know surprisingly little about why so many people suffer depression, anxiety or addiction to drugs and alcohol. We do know, however, about the severe consequences on their social and economic lives.

In the U.S., people with a mental illness are two to three times more likely to be unemployed, and their employment rate is 15 percentage points lower than for those without mental health problems. They are also more likely to call-in sick, often for longer periods, and to under-perform at work. Similar patterns are found in other OECD countries.

There is also a strong link between mental instability and poverty. In the U.S., the income of people with severe mental health problems is almost three times more likely than average to fall below the poverty threshold. This risk is much higher in the U.S. than in most European countries that have stronger social safety nets.

Full story of mental health impacting careers at PBS Newshour

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin,


New Criteria for Mental Health DisordersIn 1959, Dr. Julian Lasky decided to conduct an experiment: How well could psychiatrists and hospital staff at a V.A. general-medicine and surgical hospital use individual patient interviews to predict post-hospital adjustments among their psychiatric patients? Once a month over a period of six months, Lasky gathered predictions on factors such as rehospitalization, work, family, and health adjustment. He then correlated those predictions, along with a number of other possible predictive factors, with actual readjustment success. He discovered something striking: the single strongest predictor of a patient’s adjustment success was the weight of his case file. The heftier the file, the less likely a patient was to successfully readjust to life outside of the hospital. File weight significantly predicted every single outcome criterion—from the patient’s ability to hold a job to his capacity for carrying on a successful, long-term romantic relationship—more accurately than monthly interviews, as well as other behavioral and self-report measures. And in the case of some factors, such as the chances of rehospitalization, the correlation was remarkably high. The natural conclusion was that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

In some ways, not much has changed since those early days of clinical diagnosis. The director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Thomas Insel, announced last week that the institute would be officially reorienting its research agenda away from the categories in the soon-to-be-published fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and toward a new set, the Research Domain Criteria (R.D.O.C.): “Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure. In the rest of medicine, this would be equivalent to creating diagnostic systems based on the nature of chest pain or the quality of fever.” In other words, we are still relying on the subjective assessments that lost out to the weight of the case file over half a century ago.

Full story of mental health criteria at The New Yorker

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin,

How autism is different in girls vs. boys

Autism Differences in Boys and GirlsWhy do boys get diagnosed with autism four times as often as girls?

New research, including some of the latest data from the International Society for Autism Research annual conference last week, addresses this question, one of the biggest mysteries in this field.

A growing consensus is arguing that sex differences exist in genetic susceptibility, brain development and social learning in autism—and they are meaningful to our understanding of the disorder and how it will be treated.

Yale University researchers presented results showing that being female appears to provide genetic protection against autism. Meanwhile, scientists at Emory University showed in preliminary work that boys and girls with autism learn social information differently, which leads to divergent success in interactions with other people.The new data, together with previously published studies, suggest that sex should be taken into account in diagnosing and in creating individualized treatment plans, according to experts.

Full story of autism in boys and girls at Fox News

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin,

Eating Disorder Orthorexia On The Rise

Eating Disorder Called OrthorexiaThis is the time of year when many people are excited to get in shape and eat healthier. The problem is many people are going too far. A dangerous phenomenon called “Orthorexia” is becoming more prevalent.

Personal trainer Bron Volney at Boston Sports Club is just as concerned with his clients’ diet as he is with their workout.

“I monitor a lot of my clients’ weight, and if they are dropping really fast, and it seems they are going to extremes, you’ve got to question them and say, ‘Let’s make sure you are staying healthy,’” said Volney.

Staying healthy means following a balanced diet. A growing number of people however, are eliminating entire food groups, seeing only negative qualities in things like dairy, eggs, meats, grains and fats.

Full story of orthorexia at CBS Baltimore

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin,

Mother’s quest to find treatment for son highlights mental health system’s limitations

Mother's Quest to Highlight Mental Health LimitationsWhen Chris Marciano was 4 years old, he would have a blistering tantrum whenever music came on the radio. By the second grade, his teacher described him as “not with us.” At age 11, he was kicked out of school.

“The pediatrician said he was just obnoxious, which wasn’t very helpful,” said his mother, Mary Gabel, about the first assessment of her then-preschooler. “I knew something wasn’t right.”

Some 20 years after that assessment, Marciano has accumulated a long list of other adjectives in medical evaluations — excitable, fearful, grandiose, hostile, suicidal — and his mother hasn’t stopped searching for the right kind of help.

Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Marciano bounced from emergency room to jail to the streets. When he believes he is Jesus Christ or Tupac Shakur or tells his mother she needs to “watch her back,” Gabel said, she double-checks the locks on her house in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood and alerts her neighbors that her son might come home. She estimates he has been hospitalized 45 times.

Full story of mental health limitations at Chicago Tribune

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin,