By On November 16th, 2016

Social Impairment May Stick Around After Anorexia Recovery


It has been well documented that social impairments are common among those who live with anorexia nervosa, but a new study suggests these impairments may not go away after recovery.

According to findings published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, individuals experiencing their first episode of anorexia and those who had already recovered from the eating disorder both showed similar social function impairments.

Anorexia is most characterized by eating disorders and related physical symptoms from malnutrition, but many forget that the disorder is a mental illness which rarely exists in a vacuum. It is highly common for those who experience anorexia in their life to also experience obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Individuals with anorexia nervosa also often exhibit social difficulties. Unfortunately, little research has been conducted to explore the relationship between these social difficulties and the eating disorder. In particular, no studies have compared those with recent onset anorexia and those who have recovered from the disorder.

This motivated a group of researchers from Copenhagen, Denmark to study the social difficulties experienced by both former and current female anorexia patients using several measures of social function and social cognition.

The belief of the researchers was that social dysfunction would be minimal at the onset of anorexia, likely peaking at the most severe stages of the eating disorder, and then tapering off following rehabilitation. However, this wasn’t the case.

Instead, the team found that both individuals with first-episode anorexia nervosa and those who had recovered showed similar levels of social function impairments. The only difference observed was that those who had recovered showed impairment in perception of social stimuli like body language, which was not noted in tests completed by those with first-episode anorexia.

While these findings could be demoralizing to those recovering from an eating disorder, there is still hope. The real takeaway is the importance of providing care for all aspects of mental health when treating and eating disorder – not just correcting disordered eating habits.

If you think you or someone you know may be living with an eating disorder, give us a call at (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and find the right treatment plan for you.

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