Untouched plates of food,
Blacked out mirrors for fear of one’s own reflection
Inescapable cycles of depressive thought.
Sydney fought her appearance every day, wrestled with sneaky negative perceptions that at the worst times would make themselves quite apparent. “It began at age 8, it was never something I set out to do”* Sydney said. “…it went past the battles of monthly urges, it was a perpetual and consistent urge suppressed every single second of every moment.”* Sydney is just one of the 30 millions of Americans who suffer from the psychological affliction anorexia nervosa (AN). Sydney’s challenge, like so many others with anorexia nervosa, is that it is an emotional eating disorder. Having this disorder means that a person’s body image is constantly changing causing intolerable anxiety. The above symptoms symbolize the consistent factors that play a significant role in a person’s life with AN.
In order to truly assist the astronomical numbers of women and men who are afflicted by anorexia nervosa, like Sydney, we must transform the national conversation. A key piece of decoding the scientific motivations for anorexia can be found in a recent study performed by Dr. Wierenga et al.? titled “Hunger Does… Anorexia Nervosa.” Those with AN have always been understood to be different, yet what this scientific journal article properly puts into perspective are the differences within the physiological limitations of the mind. When the average individual is hungry, the neurological response is a significant uptick in the regions of the brain that deal with rewards like food. This results in the cognitive reaction of not only realizing hunger but prioritizing those needs before other stimuli. Those with AN, however, don’t have this same neurological capability.
In a study using monetary cues, scientists established that people with AN neurologically had a greater control over their desires, where their self-control regions of the brain remained far more active than that of the average person. For them, hunger is felt but not prioritized and in most instances further suppressed. What’s more, those affected lack even the mental capacity to recognize the impact of their actions to a certain degree. Wierenga also found that the emotional salience of emaciation and recognition of an issue are reduced within a brain that has AN. Which manifests in the indifference expressed by those who are afflicted with anorexia.
So often those afflicted are met with such casual statements of “Just Do It”, just eat the food. Like their life’s problems could be solved by the simple slogan of a popular footwear company. Yet, this study conclusively proves a more pervasive and underlying issue. Understanding the personal limitations of those with, AN should prompt us to become more supportive and aware of improper eating habits. So in an effort to spread this awareness, share this message. And feel free to engage with those who are survivors and realize that it is a problem only resolvable through the actions of a community.
Christina E. Wierenga, Amanda Bischoff-Grethe, A. James Melrose, Zoe Irvine, Laura Torres, Ursula F. Bailer, Alan Simmons, Julie L. Fudge, Samuel M. McClure, Alice Ely, and Walter H. Kaye, Hunger Does Not Motivate Reward in Women Remitted from Anorexia Nervosa, (2014-2015), Biological Psychiatry
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