The Anorexic Brain

multitasking and mindfulness practiceAre the Brains of Anorexics Wired Differently?

Do you or someone you know struggle with an intense fear of food or gaining weight? Perhaps you’ve developed strict regimens or routines to avoid or severely limit your intake of food. You may be struggling with an eating disorder. You might feel anxious and perhaps feel different from others. Recent research shows that there might be an explanation for how you feel.


Using brain imaging, researchers have found that the brains of people with anorexia are wired differently than others. Anorexia involves malnutrition, excessive weight loss, intense fear of gaining weight, and distorted thinking about body image and hunger. Perfectionism is another quality common to anorexics even before the eating disorder develops. According to preliminary data, the self control center in the anorexic brain may function differently than that of others. This may indicate that people with anorexia actually have a more powerful willpower center in the brain.


Anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure, is another symptom common in anorexia. Researchers suspect that wiring connecting food to pleasure in the brain may be different in anorexics. A little sugar can be experienced as too much stimulation in the brain of an anorexic. On the other hand, it may hardly register in the brain of someone used to consuming too much sugar on a regular basis.


For most people, dopamine is a feel good chemical in the brain. Some research suggests that for people with anorexia dopamine triggers anxiety. Thus, the feel good temptations of food can produce the opposite reaction for some anorexics.


Finally, researchers have found that another portion of the brain in people with anorexia may be dulled to sensations. For people with anorexia, the anticipation of pain was overly stimulating, but the pain itself wasn’t nearly as bad. This suggests that they may not feel the pain in the same way. This can further explain why people with anorexia don’t experience the pain of hunger either.


What this research suggests is that some people are more susceptible than others to developing an eating disorder. Here’s the link to the complete article and research references.

For help recovering from anorexia

If you or someone you know is struggling with anorexia, help is available.We regularly offer a twelve-week program to help you make peace with food along with weekend workshops. Our therapists in Houston specialize in eating disorder and can help you or your loved one recover. To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to help you!


Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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