What Drives Anorexia?
The impulses and mechanisms behind anorexia have been a mystery for a long time. It is a highly complex disorder with many genetic and environmental factors that could potentially play a role in the development of the eating disorder.
Many have suggested the disorder stems from a compulsive desire to avoid or fear of becoming overweight. However, a recent study suggests that may not be the case.
Instead, the findings published in Translational Psychiatry suggest that people who experience anorexia nervosa may be driven by the pleasure of losing weight rather than the fear of becoming overweight.
For the study, Prof. Gorwood, head of the Clinic for Mental and Brain Diseases, and colleagues showed women photographs of other women who were either a normal weight, underweight, or overweight. The team then used equipment to record sweating caused by emotional excitement, also known as a skin conductivity test.
The study included 71 women diagnosed with anorexia and 20 healthy control participants.
Compared to the control participants, the women with anorexia show more negativity toward images of normal or overweight women and showed more excitement or positivity to images of underweight women.
The researchers say these findings indicate the desire to be thin may be important to women with anorexia than a fear of gaining weight or being overweight.
The researchers then tried to investigate whether this response was linked to a specific gene called Val66Met, however, they were not able to draw a definitive conclusion.
More research is needed to see if this type of response is causally linked to anorexia. The findings also bring up questions about whether the emotional response is learned as anorexia develops or if it precedes and contributes to the disorder.