The 2012 National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Conference was held at the historic Marriot Savoy in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida. As a representative of Veritas Collaborative, I was one of 600 people who descended on the Savoy eager to absorb the current wisdom of some of the world’s experts on the art and science in the treatment of eating disorders. There was something for everyone. Topics were divided into sessions focusing on Education/Outreach, Family Basics, Diversity and Special Interest, Co-Occurring Behaviors and Treatment.
Dr. Cynthia Bulik, the keynote speaker, opened the conference with her presentation entitled “Reflections of Reality: Eating Disorders in Diverse Populations and Across the Lifespan.” At the outset, Dr. Bulik invoked the common Indian legend of the six blind men and the elephant to depict the current state of the eating disorder community while touching on some of the differing views and even tensions in the field. She endeavored to debunk several myths related to eating disorders and presented scientific evidence pointing to the increased prevalence of eating disorders in diverse populations and ages which was sobering.
In the second General Session, Dr. Timothy Brewerton presented on the significant incidence of trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in individuals suffering with eating disorders, in particular, those suffering with bulimia. He referred to trauma as a “non-specific” causal factor in the development of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. He emphasized the need to adequately treat the PTSD in order to aid in recovery.
The third General Session was entitled “Family Panel: What About Me? Stories of Recovery from High-Risk and Underserved Populations.” Dr. Ovidio Bermudez moderated this panel discussion in which members shared their amazing, sometimes humorous, and heart-warming stories of courage and inspiration in pursuit of recovery. Singers and songwriters, Anita and Natalie Falk, who performed at the previous evening’s social gathering, received a warm welcome when they were introduced as NEDA Ambassadors.
In the fourth and final General Session, Timothy Wilson, PhD, presented “Treatment of Binge Eating Disorder: Current Research and Center Implications.” He provided evidence that led him to propose a need for “Rebooting Psychotherapy” to include technology, non-traditional treatment providers and self-help interventions to address the significant gap in the treatment of BED.
As is often the case at conferences, the concurrent sessions were plentiful and of such great interest that it was difficult to choose which to attend. One of the liveliest offerings was a panel discussion entitled “What’s Up With That.” Michael Levine, PhD, Carolyn Costin, MA, FAED, and Michael Strober, PhD, responded to questions from the audience that highlighted some of the 6-blind men’s perspectives that Dr. Bulik referenced in her opening presentation. All three were extremely passionate about their beliefs concerning the treatment of eating disorders. Their strong sentiments about some of the controversies that exist were intermingled with hilarious stories that had folks laughing to tears.
At the conference’s end, it was time to reflect on the offerings and newfound relationships and to imagine a future without eating disorders.
— Written by Mark E. Wolever, PhD, Psychotherapist