Anorexics Feel Anxiety with Food

Anorexia patients have been found to show anxiety when eating instead of pleasure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Eating for many people is rewarding and satiating, but for others eating may cause a different effect. If eating caused you to feel nervous and anxious would you still want to eat?

Most people find it difficult to restrict calories and lose weight, but people with anorexia nervosa have a different feeling. Researchers found that people with anorexia nervosa show feelings of anxiety instead of pleasure when eating.

"People with anorexia feel anxiety when eating: be supportive."

Walter Kaye, MD, from the Eating Disorder Treatment and Research Program at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine studied the effects of dopamine, chemical released in response to tasty foods in the brain, and people who recovered from anorexia for at least a year.

Kaye and colleagues measured the levels of dopamine by using a brain imaging technology, positron emission tomography (PET), by using amphetamine. Amphetamine is used to help release dopamine in the brain.

Researchers found that healthy women without an eating disorder showed the amphetamine released dopamine were associated with feelings of extreme pleasure in the "reward" center of the brain.

Participants who had anorexia nervosa showed amphetamine triggered anxious feelings and stimulated the part of the brain that worries about consequences.

This study is important because it shows how difficult it is for people with anorexia nervosa to regain their weight and health due to the irregular reactions of dopamine.

There are currently no treatment strategies to reduce eating-induced anxiety, but it is important for patients with anorexia to continue to regain weight.

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Review Date: 
May 23, 2011
Last Updated:
May 24, 2011