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Eating Disorders Blamed On Stress
New evidence suggests eating disorders may be sparked by stress.
Such disorders are often blamed on body image issues and a flawed relationship with food. Less often, they are seen as a tangible way for women (and men) to manage emotion.
After all, when chaos looms, control kicks in. And what is a more tangible thing to control than the body?
Researchers at Pennsylvania’s Bucknell University have looked at the emotional drivers of eating disorders, uncovering a link between thought suppression and stress.
Co-experimenter Lauren Feldman, a linguistics professor and undergraduate psychologist, hypothesised that stressed subjects would respond differently to food-related words such as “pizza” or “restaurant”.
She found that stressed subjects were significantly slower than non-stressed subjects at recognising such words.
“It’s as if, when stressed, eating-disordered individuals suppressed thoughts of food,” Feldman said. “This makes sense, because blocking out such thoughts would facilitate eating-disordered behaviours like dieting and restricting.
“Much of the research on eating disorders looks at weight, food and body shape as motivators,” she said. “But there’s also a theory that eating disorders serve emotional functions rather than physical ones.”
While the findings hardly offer the final word on diet disorders, they confirm the school of thought that says eating disorders are not so much about achieving a particular body weight as they are about trying to manage emotion.