Neurobiology of Eating Disorders

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Neurobiology of Eating Disorders

By Dr. Anjali Nagpal, Psychiatry,

Eating Disorders could be fatal to your overall health and brain. Let’s understand the neurobiology of Eating Disorders-

Eating habits have a major influence on today’s generation. Disordered eating habits can cause a serious damage to our nervous system, such as brain damage. Moreover, brain does not get the nutrients it needs to function properly because of inadequate nutrition absorption and hence, could stop the growth.

Eating disorders are serious and mental disorders that occur due to irregular eating habits and severe concern about body or shape. It can have a negative effect on person’s physical or mental health.

Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

Neurobiology is the study of cells of the nervous system and the organization of these cells into functional circuits that process information and mediate behavior.

Classification and causes of eating disorders-

Anorexia Nervosa (some common symptoms and behaviors):

  1. Inadequate food intake leading to low weight.
  2. Intense fear of weight gain.
  3. Denial of hunger.
  4. Refusal to eat certain foods, such as carbs or fats.
  5. Fatigue.
  6. Dizziness or fainting.
  7. Excessive exercise.

Bulimia Nervosa (some common symptoms and behaviors):

  1. Abnormal bowel functioning.
  2. Damaged teeth and gums.
  3. Sores in the throat and mouth.
  4. Constant dieting.
  5. Eating in secret.
  6. Self-induced vomiting.
  7. Excessive exercise.

Binge Eating (some common symptoms and behaviors):

  1. Lack of control once one begins to eat.
  2. Eating large amount of food even when not hungry.
  3. Depression.
  4. Grief.
  5. Anxiety.
  6. Shame.
  7. Self hatred about eating behaviors.
  8. Fluctuations in weight .

As a result, factors categorizing psychological, biological, genetic and emotional play an important role in developing eating disorders which involves the different behavioral patterns and this tendency is associated with neurobiology.

Role of Neurobiology in Eating Disorders-

Eating disorders affect the thinking parts of our brain that we use to make important decisions and those parts themselves can actually shrink and degenerate during an active eating disorder.In fact, patients with anorexia nervosa experience a decrease in the brain’s gray and white matter which may result into large health problems and thus, the person can be at a high risk of a sudden cardiac death.

Eating disorders may affect you in following ways:

  1. Disruptions in neurotransmitter (chemicals that transmit signals from one nerve to another) behavior.
  2. An increased risk for adolescents to develop neurological symptoms in early adulthood.
  3. Parts of the brain undergo structural changes and abnormal activity during anorexic states.
  4. Reduced heart rate, which could deprive the brain of oxygen.
  5. Nerve-related conditions including disordered thinking, numbness or odd nerve sensations in the hands or feet.
  6. A weakened response in the brain regions.
  7. A shrinking in the overall size of the brain.
  8. An adverse effect on the emotional centers of the brain which may lead to depression, irritability, and isolation.
  9. Difficulty thinking, switching tasks, and setting priorities.

However, to every illness a treatment is available and recovery is possible.

How to overcome eating disorders?

To recover from your eating disorders, a general learning is needed first:

  • Listen to your body
  • Listen to your feelings
  • Trust yourself
  • Accept yourself
  • Love yourself
  • Enjoy life again

Treat it:

Step 1-Ask for help

Step 2- Find a specialist

Step 3- Address health problems

Step 4- Make a long term treatment plan

There are numerous ways to get rid of any illness, by taking a quick step to look for the cure and therefore, every problem has a solution as a matter of fact. Give time to yourself, and if it is concerning your health do not take a chance. Stay healthy!



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