August 27, 2014

Research suggests anorexia may be fueled by positive emotions

We have understood the nature of the threat presented by eating disorders for decades. They claim the lives of young people with an astoundingly persistent regularity.

So it's somewhat surprising that we don't understand them better than we do.

For instance, we aren't entirely sure what feeds them--what perpetuates them. Recent research by Rutgers suggests an unexpected motivation for anorexia:
"What we think happens is that positive emotions become exaggerated and are rewarding these maladaptive behaviors," researcher Edward Selby said in a statement. "Since only about one-third of women recover after treatment, what we need to do is gain a better understanding of why these positive emotions become so strongly associated with weight loss rather than with a healthy association such as family, school or relationships."
 This information on what's triggering disordered thinking, and more importantly, what's feeding it as the disorder grows, gives valuable insight into treatment options. Figuring out what motivates disorders means being able to find treatments that address those motivators.

The most promising aspect of this research is that these positive emotions could be redirected during treatment, allowing them to fuel recovery instead of dysmorphia.

There's still so much research to do, but knowledge is power, and this knowledge could be especially empowering.

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