August 5, 2014

Positive emotions fuel anorexia, study finds

Women who are suffering from anorexia and are in treatment for the disease continue to experience positive emotions around their extreme weight loss, which can make the disease even tougher to treat, according to a new study conducted by Rutgers University.

            The study looked at 118 women from ages 18 to 58 who were in treatment, and found that many continued to have a sense of pride over their weight loss.

“What we think happens is that positive emotions become exaggerated and are rewarding these maladaptive behaviors,” said Edward Selby, the author of the study. “Since only about one-third of women recover after treatment, what we need to do is gain a better understanding of why these positive emotions become so strongly associated with weight loss rather than with a healthy association such as family, school or relationships.”

In the past, many studies have examined the roll of negative emotions – such as anger or sadness – on treatment, but few have looked at the distorted role that positive emotions play.

“Being in control is important for many of these women,” Selby said. “What we need to do is find a way to reconnect the positive emotions they feel in losing weight to other aspects of their lives that will lead to a more balanced sense of happiness.”

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