NIH overview - NIH Public Access Author Manuscript Am...

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Eating Disorders: National Institute of Mental Health’s Perspective Mark Chavez and Tom R. Insel National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland Abstract The mission of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is to reduce the burden of mental and behavioral disorders through research, and eating disorders embody an important fraction of this burden. Although past and current research has provided important knowledge regarding the etiology, classification, pathophysiology, and treatment of the eating disorders, there are still significant challenges that need to be addressed. This article briefly describes some of these challenges, recent NIMH-supported research and research-related activities directed at addressing these challenges, and approaches and areas of research that hold promise for furthering the understanding and treatment of eating disorders. Advancing the understanding and treatment of eating disorders is an issue of immense public health importance and is recognized as an area of high priority by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). These disorders—which include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and the six different eating disorders that fall under the category eating disorder not otherwise specified—generally occur during adolescence and early adulthood, often endure throughout life, and can have a devastating impact on patients and their families. Moreover, eating disorders often co-occur with other psychiatric disorders and disturbances, including depression, anxiety, obsessionality, substance abuse disorders, and marked impairments in social functioning (Flament, Godart, Fermanian, & Jeammet, 2001; Halmi et al., 1991; Kaye, complications as well as impaired physical development are some of the medical morbidities 1992; Mitchell, Specker, & de Zwaan, 1991; Rosenheck, 2000). Within the context of anorexia nervosa, the mortality rate is 5% per decade, making it one of the leading contributors to excess mortality of any of the psychiatric disorders (Birmingham, Su, Hlynsky, Goldner, & Gao, 2005; Sullivan, 1995), and furthermore, this disorder is associated with a 50-fold increase in the relative risk of death from suicide (Keel et al, 2003). In fiscal year 2005, NIMH provided approximately $21 million for research in eating disorders, and some of the areas of research currently being supported include genetic studies seeking to identify and localize genes that increase susceptibility to anorexia nervosa and related disorders, investigations of factors that increase the risk for and maintenance of bulimic pathology, studies using brain-imaging technologies to assess potential neurobiological abnormalities that may contribute to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and a number of behavioral and/or pharmacological interventions for improving treatment and/or preventing
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NIH overview - NIH Public Access Author Manuscript Am...

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