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Fargo doctors work on DSM

Three Fargo researchers are helping improve the diagnosis of eating disorders around the world. The Neuropsychiatric Research Institute recently received federal money to test key questions asked when diagnosing eating disorders like anorexia ner...

Three Fargo researchers are helping improve the diagnosis of eating disorders around the world.

The Neuropsychiatric Research Institute recently received federal money to test key questions asked when diagnosing eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Their work, in partnership with others across the country, will be forwarded to a committee updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible for mental health professionals.

"We want to define eating disorders in the best way possible," said Dr. Steve Wonderlich, the principal investigator. "We need to refine the diagnosis."

Dr. Jim Mitchell, another investigator, and Ross Crosby, a statistician, also are working on the project. Their work could influence everything from research on eating disorders to whether health insurance covers treatment.

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - commonly known as the DSM - lists mental disorders and the criteria for diagnosing them. Clinicians, researchers, insurance companies and policy makers worldwide use the information.

The next update is expected in 2012.

The manual's current entries on eating disorders have some limitations, Mitchell said.

For example, one of the four specific criteria for anorexia is the lack of a period in women. Researchers find the characteristic isn't useful because there are many other reasons that can happen, Mitchell said.

"It really doesn't tell you much," he said.

In addition, there are many people who have an eating disorder but don't meet the definitions of bulimia or anorexia. Binge eating is one disorder that isn't yet in the manual, but may be considered for the new edition.

"A named disorder gives it personal meaning to an individual and their families," Wonderlich said. "They have a better idea of what causes it, length of recovery and how to treat it."

Wonderlich and Mitchell plan to hold a series of meetings with leading researchers in the field to clarify symptoms and characteristics of eating disorders. Scientific data from researchers around the world will be examined in the project.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534

Fargo doctors work on DSM Erin Hemme-Froslie 20071225

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