Health Scan: Simple exercise ‘draws out’ eating disorders

New Israeli study: Women suffering from eating disorders portray themselves differently in drawings.

By
March 5, 2011 23:48
4 minute read.
Sketch by normal woman

Drawing 311. (photo credit: University of Haifa)

 
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Women suffering from anorexia or bulimia portray themselves differently in drawings than those who do not have eating disorders, according to Israeli researchers, who suggest that this discovery can help professionals as a tool for identifying and assessing these dangerous conditions. This has been revealed in a new joint study from the University of Haifa, Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba and Achva Academic College in the south that has been published in The Arts in Psychotherapy.

“The results of this study show that women suffering or prone to developing eating disorders can be diagnosed with a simple and non-intrusive self-figure drawing assessment,” said Prof. Rachel Lev-Wiesel, head of the University of Haifa’s Graduate School of Creative Art Therapies and a coauthor of the study. The research, conducted with help from Dr. Jonathan Guez, Shimrit Valetsky, Dr. Diego Kruszewski Sztul and Dr.

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Bat-Sheva Pener, examined 76 women.

Thirty-six of them had been diagnosed as anorexic or bulimic; 20 had no eating disorders but were overweight, and 20 had no eating disorders and were considered normal weight. Each of the participants completed two standardized questionnaires for screening eating disorders and were then asked to draw themselves (with no guidelines or limitations set for the drawing).

The research team then evaluated the drawings and found various differences between the groups in four aspects.

Women suffering from anorexia or bulimia tended to draw a larger neck, a disconnected neck or none at all; the mouth was more emphasized in drawings by women suffering from eating disorders, who also drew wider thighs and and no feet or disconnected feet, compared to the other groups. The study also revealed that those with the disorders tended to omit breasts from their drawings, drew lessdefined body lines and smaller figures relative to the page size. To assess the reliability of the drawing test, the more pronounced results were compared with the two standardized eating disorders screening tests, and a very strong correlation was found.

“Women suffering from eating disorders usually tend to hide their condition, even from their therapists. They often find it difficult to talk about their problem, so a non-verbal and non-intrusive tool such as a simple request for a self-figure drawing can become an important tool in creative art therapy,” explained Lev-Wiesel.

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TO THE RESCUE IN RUSSIA

Twenty-five Jews in Russia were recently trained in Moscow to establish a local branch of the Israel-based ZAKA (rescue and recovery organization). They have thus joined a global network of ZAKA-trained volunteers in major Jewish communities in the US, Mexico, Argentina, Europe and the Far East who are prepared to cope with any disaster or masscasualty incident.

The intensive week-long training workshop was sponsored by Russia’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar and ZAKA international board chairman Michael Mirilashvili. Mati Goldstein and Dovie Maisel, veteran codirectors of the ZAKA International Rescue Unit, gave lectures on their experience with foreign disasters, including those in Haiti, Mumbai, the Far Eastern tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

Among the topics were emergency medical response, mass casualty triage and management, honoring the dead, and basic forensics in accordance with Jewish law. The Deputy Director of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Israel Dr.

Nachman Ricardo and Chairman of the ZAKA Rabbinical committee rabbi Ya’acov Roget also spoke to the participants. The course ended with a mass casualty drill simulating a suicide attack during a Friday night service in a synagogue.

At a festive graduation ceremony hosted by the Moscow Jewish Community Center, the participants received certificates, the yellow ZAKA vest and emergency medical equipment. Lazar noted that “unfortunately, terror today is a global phenomenon, and therefore it is important to learn from ZAKA’s extensive experience. These newlytrained ZAKA volunteers will now be able to offer professional help at any disaster or terror attack, not just among the Jewish community but for anyone in need of assistance, regardless of religion, race or creed.” ZAKA chairman and founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav said: “ZAKA, which is recognized by the UN as an international volunteer humanitarian organization, wishes to share its expertise with the global Jewish community so that we are able to better prepare ourselves for any eventuality.”

CHECK NEW HOMES FOR OLD SMOKE

When nonsmokers move to a new home, they should check not only the neighbors and whether there are wet walls, but also whether the previous residents smoked. A new study published in the journal Tobacco Control found that walls, ceilings, carpets and even dust accumulated toxic tobacco residues that could harm new residents.

These poisonous substances are referred to as “third-hand smoke,” after second-hand smoke, which is that involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers in the presence of smokers.

Study author and psychologist Prof.

Georg Matt at San Diego State University said smokers’ homes become reservoirs of tobacco smoke pollutants. When new nonsmoking tenants come in contact with polluted surfaces and inhale suspended microscopic dust, they are unknowingly exposed to tobacco smoke toxins.”

His team looked at the homes of 50 nonsmokers and 100 smokers before and after they moved out and measured nicotine levels on interior surfaces, in the air and on participants’ fingers. The team also collected urine samples from nonsmoking residents after they moved into new homes and analyzed them for traces of cotinine, a marker for tobacco smoke exposure.

Higher levels of tobacco-linked contamination in dust and surfaces of homes formerly inhabited by smokers were found, compared to those in nonsmoker homes. New residents of homes previously lived in by smokers had higher nicotine levels on their fingers.

The researchers also suspect that the toxic elements could endanger babies and toddlers who crawl on floors and suck on items in the home.

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