Can the brain’s reward circuits fight anorexia?
Mental Health Anorexia Nervosa Eating Disorders

Can the brain’s reward circuits fight anorexia?

Dr. Clare Foldi
Dr. Clare Foldi

In 10 seconds? Although researchers are still hunting for a cure, scientists are discovering how one of the most lethal psychiatric conditions, anorexia nervosa, develops. It seems that targeting the brain’s reward pathways can kick off the survival instinct.

What’s the story? Anorexia is just the term for the inability to eat whereas anorexia nervosa (AN) is a dangerous psychological disorder pushing sufferers to lose weight by starving themselves... sometimes to death. In the US approximately 0.5-1% of younger women between 13-20 years suffer from AN. An estimated 1 in 5 patients develop a long-term, severe illness and the same proportion dies from the condition – which, along with other eating disorders cost the US almost $65 billion in 2018-2019. The Covid-19 pandemic - and the mental strain it put on young people - has increased hospitalizations for eating disorders by over 60% in the 10-17 age group. The data comes from a Canadian study. Although not establishing a direct link to increased stress, the authors noted that the increase was most notable in provinces with higher death rates and more restrictive lockdown measures.

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