Create a Healthy Relationship with Food to Thrive?
Eating disorders are a group of conditions marked by an unhealthy relationship with food that come from differences in the brain’s reaction to food and eating. Brain patterns exist that make it difficult for a person to feel calm and regulated, in control of themselves. These patterns have an underlying neurological basis that leads a person to compulsive behaviors. The compulsion in eating disorders, is to eat, not to eat, or a combination of the two. Eating disorders are not really about food. It’s an unhealthy way to try to cope with emotional problems.
Eating disorders develop during the teenage and young adult years and affect young women more than any other population. Eating Disorders can coexist with other psychological and medical issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, emotional regulation issues, and substance abuse. Eating disorders can be difficult to diagnose because most times the person keeps their behaviors hidden from others. These disorders are serious, causing life-threatening health issues and can be fatal if left untreated.
What Eating Disorders are There?
There are three main types of eating disorders:
- Binge Eating Disorder. This eating disorder is characterized by loss of control over eating which
involves regular episodes of extreme overeating.
- Bulimia Nervosa. Bulimia is known for a cycle of binge and purge behaviors. This is marked by extreme
overeating, followed by behaviors to compensate for the overeating. Most who suffer from Bulimia feel loss of
control about eating.
- Anorexia Nervosa. Characterized by weight loss, this eating disorder is often due to lack of proper
nutrition. Nutrition suffers as a product extreme dieting coupled with excessive exercise. Sometimes sufferers
limit food intake to the point of starvation. People with Anorexia continue to perceive themselves as “fat”
despite their extreme weight loss and can never feel thin enough.
Can Eating Disorders Be Cured?
Eating Disorders are known to be caused and made worse by three factors: (1) Stress, which is correlated with another, separate, brain pattern, (2) ADHD, still another brain pattern, and (3) the brain pattern associated with a specific eating disorder such as Anorexia or Binge Eating. When these three factors are addressed in concert, symptoms can reduce and be resolved much more quickly than if they are not. At Leigh Brain & Spine, the doctors identify the disruptive neurological patterns using qEEG Brain Mapping and then regulate those patterns toward optimal functioning using Neurofeedback Therapy.
What Causes Eating Disorders?
Stress and trauma have been shown to be a major contributing factor to eating disorders and can make eating disorders worse. Essentially, there is another, separate, brain pattern that causes and perpetuates stress. It can make eating disorders more serious when the person’s brain is also using this pattern. Stress can set the neurological processes that trigger a compulsive behavior into motion. Feelings of loss of control can exist for the person and eating or not eating can help that person calm their nervous system for a while.
New studies have found that altered brain patterns, within the reward system of the brain, happen for those who suffer from Anorexia. When most people sit down to eat, the reward centers provide the sense of happiness associated with eating. In people who struggle with Anorexia, the reward center is not activated properly. Instead, it sends signals of anxiety in place of those of reward. Therefore, not only does stress trigger eating disorders in many cases it is an underlying component. The cascading effect, that can be lethal, can be seen in Nature magazine’s illustration.
Are Eating Disorders Hereditary?
Although eating disorders are not neessarily hereditary, there can be a familial predisposition. What this means is that the way your brain performas is siilar to your parents’ brains. For example, ADHD and anxiety run in families and are shown to be involved in eating disorders. However, how you use your brain has been shown to be a powerful factor too.
Studies show that people with ADHD are 3.8 times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than those without ADHD. A review of many studies relating to ADHD and Eating Disorders presented by James Greenblatt, M.D. showed an incredibly strong relationship between ADHD and eating disorders. In fact, the relationship goes both ways since people with eating disorders are 2.8 times more likely to have ADHD. The main findings from this research include:
- Impulsivity strong predictor of eating disorder behavior, especially for binge eating and bulimia
- Children with ADHD are at risk for disordered eating
- ADHD is a risk factor for obesity
- Over 50% of youth treated for obesity have ADHD
- 24.7% of people being treated for obesity had ADHD
- 46.2% of people with extreme obesity had ADHD
ADHD and eating disorders are clearly linked and can negatively affect each other and seriously impact a young person’s ability to function in the world.
What is the most effective treatment for an Eating Disorder?
Due to its effectiveness in helping people with this difficult and dangerous, albeit sometimes fatal, disorder many top eating disorders clinics now use Neurofeedback Therapy as their first line of defense. Neurofeedback Therapy provides neurological regulation to a disrupted brain pattern that is at the heart of eating disorders. Essentially, Neurofeedback re-wires an improperly wired brain for better neural performance. Scientific studies prove that Neurofeedback regulates the underlying brain patterns associated with Binge Eating Disorder, Anorexia, and co-occurring ADHD and Stress with great success rates. With better brain function comes alleviation of symptoms.
Why are Eating Disorders Hard to Treat?
Eating disorders, such as Binge Eating and Anorexia Nervosa, have been shown by Science to be associated with underlying neurological brain patterns that are different from those people who do not have an eating disorder. What this means is that when a person suffers from an eating disorder, it is the way the person’s brain is functioning that is making it happen or making it worse. Most times the neurological pattern is not addressed through treatment of eating disorders, only the person’s behaviors are treated. Also, eating disorders have been shown to occur more in people who have ADHD. An ADHD brain pattern is easily identifiable and can be optimized with very high success rates using neuroscience and technology. In this way, alleviation of ADHD and eating disorders can occur simultaneously. Stress responses have been found to be at the heart of eating disorders too. These patterns can also be visualized and regulated.
Once the brain patterns that are at the core of the issues are identified on qEEG Brain Mapping then brain functioning can be improved neurologically to a symptom-free optimal brain pattern using Neurofeedback Therapy’s advanced technologies.
What Do I Do If I Think I Have an Eating Disorder?
First visit your primary care physician. He or she will investigate the status of your eating issues will make sure you are not suffering from a more serious health condition that might be impacting your ability to eat. If you would like to have your brain functioning evaluated for the brain patterns that are associated with eating disorders, call the professionals at Leigh Brain & Spine. The doctors can perform a comprehensive neurological assessment to determine if you are a strong candidate for brain-based therapies to alleviate your eating disorder challenges.
Leigh Brain and Spine is proud to have earned the distinction as a Certified Brain Health Coach Center and is a proud member of the Amen Clinics referral network.