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Phone Apps Dialing Up Eating Disorders
Date:12/28/2009

High-tech aids might spur obsessive dieting -- but could also help fight obesity, experts say

MONDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- The smartphone applications that help modern-world dwellers find restaurants in Calcutta, calculate the size of a room or even read a bar code may also fuel eating disorders.

In the wrong hands, apps and other instant technology may trigger obsessional behavior by allowing teens and young adults to constantly count calories and monitor their weight and food intake, experts say.

"This has been a concern of ours," said Dr. Harry Brandt, director of the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt in Towson, Md. "So many high school and college students have iPhone or smartphones or BlackBerries and a wave of applications that, to individuals with eating disorders, can be very detrimental. It's a combination of obsessionality and perfectionism."

Also troubling is the possibility that weight loss and calorie-counting apps may push some vulnerable teens and young adults over the edge to anorexia or bulimia.

"Maybe a young woman doesn't yet have anorexia nervosa but begins to very carefully monitor all the foods she's eating and her caloric intake and her weight in a very rigorous way on an iPhone application and becomes so fixated on doing this that it becomes a goal to lose more and more to feel successful in that endeavor," Brandt said.

Other experts, even if they haven't yet seen an uptick in such app misuse, acknowledged that a troubling trend could be brewing.

"As you start to lose weight, as you become more starved, you can become obsessive about what you're doing," said Dr. Sara Forman, director of the outpatient eating disorders program at Children's Hospital Boston. "Often, once things get going and the more obsessive you get, then the more you're spurred on and the more inflexible you get."

Forman said she hadn't yet noticed the app phe
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