It has been a traditional and long-term belief that people who deal with anorexia have a high degree of self-control. There is a new theory that may explain why it is so difficult for people to stop their behavior, because new studies show it is habitual. According to the DSM anorexia nervosa (AN) is characterized by food restriction that leads to significantly low body weight compared to their healthy counterpart. There is an intense fear of weight gain or becoming heavy or with any behavior that may produce weight gain. AN suffers often see a distorted version of their body weight or shape and there is a lack of recognition of current low body weight.
According to medical experts suggest that at least 50 percent of people hospitalized with AN often relapse within a year of their release date. In this new study told by Erica Goode researchers are finding the dieting characteristic of AN may lie in a well-entrenched habit. Once the brain attune to this habit it sets into a motion that creates inflexibility and is slow to change. This new theory lends support of implementing early treatment/intervention for people who deal with AN. In many ways AN behavior is not unlike how addiction works. The host will gravitate to habitual behavior even if it is self-destructive and the person does not attune to the damages that occurs. Like many other addictions these people want to change, help, and really try to stay within healthy limits however they can’t help this ingrained habit. The research shows that people vulnerable to AN, the weight loss initially serves as a reward. This is because they often get lots of compliments, it relieves anxiety, and for a short time it increases self-esteem.
Source: Anorexia May Be Habit, Not Willpower, Study Finds. Erica Goode. October 12, 2015. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/10/13/health/extreme-dieting-of-anorexia-may-be-entrenched-habit-study-finds.html