One of the biggest, yet controversial mental illnesses in today’s society is eating disorders. While some may argue those who suffer from eating disorders “do it for the attention” or that “eating disorders are not legitimate”, there is indeed a large psychological aspect that plays a role in eating when affected by an eating disorder. The most common types of eating disorders are bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge-eating.
The overarching stem of eating disorders comes from a concept many take for granted in today’s world; control. Before unhealthy eating habits spiral into an eating disorder, there lies reason. With most it boils down to control, and a feeling of lost control in some aspect of their life. Each underlying reason for each disorder differs. In a recent article published by the American Psychological Association, “anorexia tends to develop in those who are perfectionists, while bulimic patients are usually impulsive”. Eating disorders are also more prone to occur in those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and poor body image perception. That is just the basis of eating disorders and why they occur in the first place. There is a much bigger science and chemical reaction that takes place in the brain when looking at those affected.
In the brain, we have dopamine, or the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. The human brain is filled with millions of tiny particles; neurons, that are responsible for transmitting different messages to different areas of the body. In a recent study from the Scientific American, 14 people from each category: those who previously suffered from anorexia, those who suffered from bullemia, and those who did not struggle with eating disorders at all, were selected and examined at a closer look. The study found that those who had struggled with anorexia had less dopamine/ feel good chemicals in their brain, (specifically in the gustatory cortex) released when treated with sugary foods… “The researchers believe these abnormal responses to sugar predispose people to eating disorders, adding to a growing body of work suggesting that genetic and biological risk factors underlie most cases”. Although from this experiment we are able to prove causation, it is important to realize the reverse causation possible as well. This data was definitely accurate and well conducted as it was experimental AND observational. Eating disorders are not always biological but after damaging the body through repeated abuse, we can change our bodies responses to sugary foods.
A recent article in a reliable post from Futures, Palm Beach post tells, “An individual who suffers from anorexia nervosa has developed very specific habits concerning their eating, exercise routines, and even the thoughts they have about their body and their relationship to the outside world. These thoughts and routines change the brain.” Reverse causation is clearly proven in this article, making social causes AND biological causes a spark in eating disorders.
Although some may think that eating disorders are not real, or are all about getting attention, it’s important to realize that this is 99% of the time not the case. In fact, in today’s society, it is one of the most common mental disorders especially with our increase in technology and reliance on social media for tips / fashion advice. That being said, be more mindful of your surroundings! Don’t just assume.
Although there is are a lot of resources for those who struggle with eating disorders, it still remains one of the most controversial and skeptic mental disorders. However, after seeing the science behind the brain as well as the social aspect of the disorder, it is clear that there is more to an eating disorder than just the food itself.