A Round of Applause and Standing Ovation Goes To….

UNC’s Eating Disorders and Women’s Mood Disorder Programs

for launching yet another successful conference this year on:

 “Women’s Mental Health Across the Lifespan: Puberty, Pregnancy and Perimenopause”


With an interactive “Myth Busters” exercise, dynamic presentations, and influential speakers, the 7th Annual UNC Eating Disorders and Women’s Mood Disorders Conference ended up being a HUGE success. Informative, yet engaging, leading UNC researchers and guest speakers delivered the “late-and-breaking” findings in women’s mental health, touching on sensitive periods throughout the lifespan—from puberty to pregnancy to perimenopause. With over 130 attendants, this was the largest conference to date, bringing together a highly passionate and dedicated group of treatment providers, advocates, friends, and family, who, in line with the theme of this conference, spanned the entire age spectrum.

Highlights from the eating disorders talks:

  • Rebecka Peebles, M.D., guest speaker (pictured right), painted an encouraging picture for successful recovery and rapid response in pediatric eating disorders underscoring family involvement as an integral component to treatment, and dispelling the myth that “parents are to blame.” She reviewed early warning signs of eating pathology and discussed optimal prevention and intervention strategies for these youth.
  • Stephanie Zerwas, Ph.D., UNC Faculty (pictured left), presented findings from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health which follows > 72,000 women during and after pregnancy gathering detailed information on psychiatric health. Dr. Zerwas found that women with eating disorders are at increased risk for developing perinatal mood disorders, highlighting the need for increased support and physician monitoring of mood symptoms immediately after  these women give birth.
  • Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., UNC Faculty (pictured right), debunked the myth that women at midlife are protected from weight and shape concerns, presenting findings from the Gender and Body Image Across the Lifespan Study (GABI) that showed a high degree of body dissatisfaction and unhealthy weight control behaviors in women at midlife.  
  • With Drs. Baucom and Kirby, Bulik also provided clinicians with guidelines for implementing UCAN (Uniting Couples in the Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa) in the clinical setting. This promising new treatment that shows low drop-out (much less so than other studies) enlists the support of partners in managing and helping their loved one recovery from an eating disorder, while also providing them the space to discuss and learn to cope with their own reactions and frustrations with this disease. A couple who successfully completed the program, shared their moving story with anorexia, crediting UCAN for “saving their marriage and saving their lives.” 


What did our attendees have to say about the conference?

“Excellent conference…strong pro-woman focus with emphasis on need for awareness and change of the current cultural status quo with respect to prevailing views of girls, women, body shape, weight & age.”

“Very interesting and important information for both researchers & clinicians!”

“Good information on studies that lead to evidence-based treatment.”

We hope to continue the tradition next year!!  Additional pictures from the November 5th 2011 conference can be found here.

By: Cristin Runfola, Ph.D.