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  • The Importance of Biology in Treatment

    Posted on September 24, 2015 by

    I read or scan hundreds of articles yearly about the recent medical research that is published about eating disorders and have been writing and lecturing about the neurobiology of eating disorders for over 10 years. During this time, I have found this information to be a critical component when assessing a client’s condition and developing a treatment plan. One simple example is how brain functioning with anorexia nervosa can be altered through changes in a person’s neuroendocrine system. Part of this system called the hypothylamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis can become dysregulated with anorexia nervosa leading to hypoactivation of brain regions involved in food motivation and appetite drive and contributing to the maintenance of the eating disorder. Other studies show more dysregulation of neurohormones such as oxytocin which effects a person’s sense of saity, or fullness, after meals. Compared to individuals without anorexia, women with anorexia nervosa have significantly higher levels of oxytocin which may cause increased feelings of early saity and hypoactivation of the food-motivation neurocircuitry.  As a result, finishing meals and restoring weight becomes a physiological painful process, not just an emotional struggle. This type of knowledge is important to clinicians when working with clients to help patients and families understand that the struggle is not simply due to emotional resistance or attributed to eating disorder behavior, but that real biological functions can be complicating the recovery process. Seasoned eating disorder clinicians can recognize the biological implications of eating disorder treatment and help ease the frustration and tension that comes with treatment. – Dr. Jeffrey DeSarbo

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