Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding

by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

"Mothers and Others finds the key in the primatologically unique length of human childhood. If the young were to survive in a world of scarce food, they needed to be cared for, not only by their mothers but also by siblings, aunts, fathers, friends—and, with any luck, grandmothers. Out of this complicated and contingent form of childrearing, Sarah Hrdy argues, came the human capacity for understanding others. Mothers and others teach us who will care, and who will not. " A great book. All that needs to be said really.

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The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession

by Chandler Burr

It may seem strange to include a book on scent in this reading section but I am including this highly readable book precisely because it provides a balanced and necessarily harsh view of the peer-reviewed process and the dogma and powerful industry interests that so often decapitate new theories before they have seen the light of day. Our sense of smell is how we eat and it is likely that it features prominently in the perception of abnormal eating behaviors in ways we have yet to consider or investigate at all.

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The Secret History of the War on Cancer

by Devra Davis

The "War on Cancer"in our society was set out to find, treat, and cure a disease. Left untouched were many of the things known to cause cancer, including tobacco, the workplace, radiation, or the global environment. Proof of how the world in which we live and work affects whether we get cancer was either overlooked or suppressed. Phenomenal lobbying efforts from industries that make cancer-causing chemicals and agents that are rife in everyday consumer products, and pharmaceutical companies that profit from the drugs and technologies for finding and treating the disease ensured that environmental triggers remained a no-go zone in this so-called war. This is really a life's research work book and Davis covers it all.

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Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America

by Barbara Ehrenreich

Ehrenreich does a good job providing historical context for why positive-thinking is such an ingrained approach to life in America. Positive-thinking leads to avoidance, denial and levels of self-blame that are destructive. This is a book that generates tremendous vitriolic response from those who practice positive-thinking. However, excessive pessimism or optimism are two sides of the same coin: they originate with underlying anxieties about outcomes that are perceived as unacceptable or perhaps unsurvivable. The pessimist deals with significant anxiety when she considers having her hopes dashed, so she short-circuits it by always anticipating the worst which ensures she never has her hopes dashed. The optimist deals with anxiety when she considers she may have to deal with a negative outcome, so she short-circuits that by assuming that the power of positive-thinking will remove that possibility altogether.

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White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine

by Carl Elliot

Carl Elliot is a professor of bioethics and I wish he'd been my prof. His exposé on the incestuous relationship between physicians and pharmaceutical companies is both eye-opening and entertaining. I quote him in my series on FAT in the blog: "The best mark is often a person to whom the possibility of a con never occurs, simply because he thinks he is too smart to be tricked. Medical practice is like this. Many doctors know nothing about advertising, salesmanship, or public relations. They believe these are jobs for people who could not get into medical school. This probably why they are so easily fooled."

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Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference

by Cordelia Fine

While I recognize that this is a book not directly related to eating disorders, Cordelia Fine is my meta-meta-analyst hero. Our minds are wondrous ever-changing, fluid, dynamic ecosystems and that may indeed be why it is possible to overcome harmful restrictive eating behaviors. Obliquely this book is also particularly relevant when it comes to the assumption that eating disorders are far more prevalent for women than men. What I have found with most DSM-categorized "mental disorders" is that there is endemic sexism that overlooks the possibility that the same genetic/environmental systems that underpin these so-called disorders are common to both men and women, and it is merely the expressions of these disorders that may be sexually distinct (largely due to human sensitivity to apply societally consistent expressions even with the confines of mental illness). 

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Wrong: Why experts* keep failing us--and how to know when not to trust them *Scientists, finance wizards, doctors, relationship gurus, celebrity CEOs, ... consultants, health officials and more

by David H. Freedman

This book is a must read to gain much-needed perspective on how experts and their peer-reviewed publications must be approached with caution. Freedman is a journalist who specializes in business, technology and medical journalism. As an aside, Freedman himself has fallen prey to accepting obesity as a disease when the actual scientific data to support that concept would not hold up under the scrutiny he recommends we follow when considering expert advice in general. In fact, I find that fact comforting for we all have blind-spots and it does not diminish any of the astute advice he provides in this book. 

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Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters In the End

by Atul Gawande

It could just as easily have been titled "Being Alive". Yes, this is not a light read, but it is so beautifully written and the author conveys such complexity and empathy that words fail me in attempting to express how profoundly this book affected me and my sense of mortality (my own and the mortality of those near and dear to me in both my professional and personal lives). One great insight that Gawande makes that has stuck with me is that we tend to rate the importance of safety over autonomy as more important for our loved ones than ourselves. And that means we forget that our loved ones rate their own autonomy as more important and meaningful, just as we do for ourselves.

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The Second Brain : The Scientific Basis of Gut Instinct and a Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestines

by Michael Gershon

This is a technical but surprisingly approachable and witty book on the how the mind is really not just sitting between our two ears.

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Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America

by Nortin M. Hadler, MD

Does your doctor know how likely it is that proposed treatments will afford meaningful benefits? And do you? Each chapter covers off the uses and abuses of screening tests and medical and surgical interventions. We all over-estimate the value of having a negative screening test relative to the anxiety and actual risk associated with undertaking the test in the first place. Not many of us goes into all the rote screening recommendations with the following thought in the back of our minds: "Could I be harmed by the test itself? Could I receive an equivocal result that might mean further risky and unnecessary interventions? And what would be the course of action if the test is positive?" This is a good book for getting us to mull all these things over before we face snap decisions in a doctor's office.

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Let Them Eat Prozac: The Unhealthy Relationship Between the Pharmaceutical Industry and Depression

by David Healy

I read this book many, many years ago and have re-read it a couple of times since then. Dr. Healy is a psychiatrist who is tireless (I don't know how he does it really) in his efforts to address psychiatry's very unsavoury relationship with pharmaceutical companies. In this book he provides a thorough and enlightening history on the development and application of anti-depressants on the population at large and the continuing efforts by the pharmaceutical industry to stifle information on the dangers of these psychoactive drugs.

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Disease, Diagnoses, and Dollars: Facing the Ever-Expanding Market for Medical Care

by Robert M. Kaplan

Kaplan is professor of both public health and medicine. This book is most intriguing because it addresses the ethics of disease screening and treatment from the perspective of access as well as its value to both the individual and the population at large. Because we keep ratcheting screening guidelines as well as transforming more conditions into disease states, we now have an ever shrinking population of the excessively cared-for alongside the ever burgeoning uninsured and uncared-for. Most fascinating is that even excessive care for the wealthy few does not usually generate better outcomes or longevity for them in any case.

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The Bitterest Pills: The Troubling Story of Antipsychotic Drugs

by Joanna Moncrieff

Atypical antipscyhotics are often prescribed for the off-label treatment of eating disorders. However a recent systematic review by Jocelyn Lebow and her colleagues confirm that these drugs worsen restrictive behaviors and anxiety symptoms (2013).

In addition to Moncrieff's book listed below (The Myth of the Chemical Cure), this book will provide any patient who is either being advised to take, or is taking, atypical antipsychotics with important information on the risks, effects and outcomes of using these drugs for the treatment of eating disorders.

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The Myth of the Chemical Cure: A Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment

by Joanna Moncrieff

One of my two go-to books (the other one being David Healy's Let Them Eat Prozac) when it comes to the science of psychoactive drugs and their broad misuse in the treatment of mental illness. Dr. Moncrieff is a psychiatrist and there's nothing more potent than "an insider" telling it like it is. Her foundational argument is that none of these drugs is specific to any one mental illness. There are no "antidepressants" or "anxiolytics" or "neuroleptics". These are all drugs that knock down central nervous system function in a broad and unspecific way. That may have some limited use for patients in absolute crisis, but these drugs have very serious long term effects and impacts and are at best short-term acute prescription options for the most severely distressed patients out there.

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Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients

by Ray Moynihan, Alan Cassels

Ray Moynihan and Allan Cassels show how drug companies are systematically using their dominating influence in the world of medical science. Drug companies are working, and succeeding, at defining the boundaries that define illness. Mild problems are redefined as serious illness, and common complaints are labeled as medical conditions requiring drug treatments. Selling Sickness reveals how expanding the boundaries of illness and lowering the threshold for treatments is creating millions of new patients and billions in new profits, in turn threatening to bankrupt national healthcare systems all over the world.

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Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation

by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim.

Seriously this should be compulsory reading for everyone. It should be mandatory reading for all ob/gyns for that matter too. It's a fascinating read and you will learn all the things you should know about periods but don't.

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Coming of Age on Zoloft: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are

by Katherine Sharpe

The author takes a look at the prevalence in our society today of medicating what are perhaps average and passing emotional states for adolescents and young adults, with anti-depressants. It's a philosophical discussion on what this approach might mean for an entire generation who may have their ability to develop emotional resilience short-circuited through the use of anti-depressants. Sharpe takes a very balanced approach and is quick to identify when these drugs have value for those with major depressive disorders. Overall an interesting read.

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Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche

by Ethan Watters

A fascinating look at anorexia in Hong Kong, PTSD in Sri Lanka, schizophrenia in Zanzibar and depression in Japan. A clear case for why the symptomatology-based world of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders misses the forest for the trees. Symptoms are generated through a cultural-sweep that the mind does to try to anchor the inherent dis-order that it is experiencing. Not that these conditions are made up, but rather that patients are unable to find a way to translate their inner world outward without the use of culturally-significant symptoms.

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Over-diagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health

by Dr. H Gilbert Welch, Dr. Lisa M. Schwartz and Dr. Steven Woloshin

If you can only read one book on over-diagnosis in our medical systems, this one is it. Incidentaloma– it's something of concern that shows up in a screening test that has nothing to do with the symptoms or medical concerns at hand. In the absence of any symptoms, regular screening can actually be riskier to your health than not. I like the writing style and the approachableness, plus science people. Science.

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Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

by Robert Whitaker

Most patients with eating disorders have been placed on numerous psychoactive drugs. Antidepressants are often prescribed despite the fact that they have no clinical data to support their use in treating depression, let alone have any value in the treatment of eating disorders. Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs) are also commonly prescribed and while they do have short-term or crisis-level clinical value, they can actually interfere with psychotherapeutic efforts to re-train responses to threatening stimuli (in the case of those with eating disorders that will be food). And that doesn't even touch on the fact that many patients with eating disorders have been prescribed amphetamines and/or neuroleptics under the guise of treating attentional, obsessional and psychotic symptoms. Whether you are on these drugs, or they have been recommended to you by your physician/psychiatrist, and you only read one book on the topic of psychiatry at all, then this is that book.

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