hair test for eating disorders: scientific triumph or an orwellian nightmare?

according to new research, a hair test can now show whether someone has anorexia or bulimia. another scientific triumph!

supposedly, this is useful because “diagnosing eating disorders is often hampered because of patient resistance”.

whenever i hear the phrase “patient resistance”, my, um, hair stands up. in my experience, most, if not all, “patients” who “resist” have a very good reason for that resistance. they feel medicalized, looked down on, not taken seriously – anything that involves a lack of power on their part and too much power on the part of orwellian big brother types or anyone else against whom they resist.

so now i’m wondering how this test might be useful. a person who is not sure whether they have an eating disorder could just as well see a therapist or other professional, or confer with someone who is recovering from an eating disorder. i’m not sure how this test might help them.

if, on the other hand, distressed parents bring in their teenage son who they feel has an eating disorder, then snipping off five strands of hair (apparently that’s how much it takes to determine whether there is an eating disorder) and then sticking a report under his nose that confirms his anorexia and/or bulimia – how is that going to help?

most likely, either the young man knows it already and isn’t wanting to deal with it, or feels that he doesn’t have an eating disorder. do you really think that a report about five strands of hair will convince him more than a look in the mirror (anorexia) or in the toilet bowl (bulimia)? i doubt it.

more useful, methinks, are friendly, respectful conversations.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

10 thoughts on “hair test for eating disorders: scientific triumph or an orwellian nightmare?

  1. molly

    I agree. This hair test is ridiculous. Once again scientists are trying to use empiricism to solve a non-empirical phenomenon. Eating disorders (in my experience) are a phenomenon of the mind.

    Quite besides the fact that empirical ‘evidence’ is not going to convince someone that they have an eating disorder, what about the people whose tests come back negative? Does this mean that they don’t have a legitimate cause for concern? “You’re not annorexic because your hair doesn’t indicate a problem . . . yet.” This reminds me of the other empirical indicators for annorxia, like % body mass lost etc.

    I think psychologists should have figured out by now that eating disorders are about what the mind is doing, how people are feeling, not what the body indicates.


  2. Saur

    Actually, I feel this could be very helpful. Your example is of a young man whose parents drag him in because they’re worried about him.

    Why are they worried?

    Because they are concerned that he may be indulging in behaviors that are injurious to himself.

    Studies show that the human mind isn’t fully developed until age 25. That final piece that is developing? The part that enables us to make rational decisions.

    That’s why we have the family societal structure that we have: Kids aren’t always able to make sound decisions for themselves.

    If a parent’s suspicions are confirmed, that is when treatment can occur. Otherwise, the child could be suffering from a variety of things, including drug abuse.

    This test could be a godsend and could potentially save lives.

    Saur’s last blog post..Alicia Keys is Nuts

  3. Provillus

    I have a holistic doctor- she’s trained conventionally and then explored alternative treatments, and she gave me a hair test and sent it to a company called Standard Process, which analyzed the sample, diagnosed adrenal exhaustion, and provided a list of what stuff was off- some pretty important things like sodium/potassium balance, which drives how cells take nutrients in and out of themselves. Standard Process then recommended which of their supplements to take (must be gotten by the doctor).

    Just taking vitamins and minerals wouldn’t cut it because the stress made ratios of elements off- and you can’t buy that off the shelf in the store. I have to say I ran out of my supplements 4 days ago and my mood has swung in the wrong direction– I’m waiting for an email back from my doctor so I can pick up more! It has been great how the ‘rage’ that I felt has disapated since balancing my body. In the interim, you might see what “adrenal support” products your health food store has…but that won’t help you with the mineral balance thing if that is something going on with you.

    Provillus’s last blog post..Vitamins for hair loss

  4. Hairloss Treatment

    I would say neither: It’s short of scientific triumph and certainly isn’t an Orwellian Nightmare!

    It’s probably a good tool to have in the armoury of the science community. But eating disorders, in my humble opinion, are wholly entagled within the mind and can only be tackled through psycological means after emotional acceptance of the problem by the patient.

    Hairloss Treatment’s last blog post..Scientia Derma Roller Instructions

  5. Tom

    Perhaps it another good weapon in arsenal of all that diagnosing army but am not sure that if it will work or not. No doubt, we have many unknown factors in changes in all our body and may be we need some new generation of diagnoses tests. There were times when people tests semen by its taste but we can see all the evolution.

  6. Finasterida

    This test is not a magic solution but it may be of help to many people suffering from these diseases. Having more information available to make a good diagnostic is important and it is also crucial to understand this condition better. The disease might be in the brain, but to cure it you must understand it so this is a step in the right direction.

    Finasterida’s last blog post..Queda de Cabelo

  7. isabella mori

    hi @skin roller, and thanks for commenting.

    actually, there are quite a few people who have both anorexia and bulimia. there are also people who are both overeaters and undereaters. i know, it’s hard to imagine for someone who hasn’t been through it …

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