Faculty voice:

Kelly Klump: Continuing the Quest

Oct. 22, 2014

Kelly Klump is a professor of psychology in the Department of Psychology. She is an internationally recognized clinical psychologist and expert on eating disorders.

I study the causes of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. These disorders are characterized by abnormal eating patterns including starvation, binge eating, and/or self-induced vomiting and weight-focused thoughts such as thinking that you are fat even though you are thin.

Those with eating disorders, the majority of whom are women, suffer tremendously. Seeing this suffering and the devastating effects of eating disorders has fueled my desire to help through my research.

In our society, there are large misperceptions about eating disorders. For far too long, people have thought that females with eating disorders are just vain girls who want to be pretty. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Eating disorders are extremely serious. They have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders and are associated with many medical problems and can lead to death.

It is now well established that a broad range of factors contributes to the development of eating disorders. In my lab, we consider how genetic and biological factors contribute to the development of eating disorders.

I am fortunate to work with a dedicated group of graduate students—all young women—who also want to help other women. Together, we are uncovering more and more secrets about the genetic components of eating disorders that take us closer to developing effective treatments.

Eating disorders deserve the same level of attention, treatment resources and research funding as other disorders, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, they do not receive these resources. Maybe this is because we live in a society where thinness is a perceived ideal. As much as I’d like to, I can’t change that. But what I can do, with the help of my grad students, is continue the quest to find the causes of eating disorders, design effective treatments and put an end to the suffering.


Learn more about Klump's work on her website.


Photo by G.L. Kohuth