The blindingly obvious, part 4,279: eating disorders are psychologica

Those of us who watch with keen interest any breakthroughs in conventional medicine sometimes have to be philosophical, if not restrained.

Take, for instance, eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Any parent or close friend worth his or her salt knows that these conditions are invariably psychological, and need to be treated with understanding and great care.

The average family doctor, however, has traditionally thrown powerful antidepressants at the problem, and that's assuming he has taken it seriously in the first place. As one expert has said, treatment at the hands of the GP has been 'idiosyncratic'. This idiosyncratic approach has, on occasions, involved abuse, blame and mockery.

Now that august medical institution, the UK's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), has decreed that eating disorders do have a psychological base after all, and the family doctor should: a) take the condition seriously, b) refer the patient for special counselling, and c) lay off the antidepressants.

The trouble is that, because antidepressants have always been the trusted stand-by, there aren't too many specialist counsellors out there. In fact, at the last count, there were roughly, er, 25 teams available in Britain.

(Source: British Medical Journal, 2004; 328: 245).