Eating Disorder – Symptoms & Factors

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal cortex which promotes blood sugar and increases metabolism . High levels of cortisol were found in people with eating disorders. This imbalance may be caused by a problem in or around the hypothalamus . A study in London at Maudsley Hospital found that anorexics were found to have a large variation of serotonin receptors and a high level of serotonin.

Many of these chemicals and hormones are associated with the hypothalamus in the brain .Damage to the hypothalamus can result in abnormalities in temperature regulation, eating, drinking, sexual behavior, fighting, and activity level. Uher & Treasure (2005) performed a study researching brain lesions effects on eating

disorders. They evaluated 54 formally published cases of eating disorders and brain damage. They found many correlations between eating disorders and damage to the hypothalamus. People with brain lesions in the hypothalamus had abnormal eating behaviors; unprovoked and self induced vomiting, over concern with becoming fat, cheating with eating, frequent sleepiness, depression, obsessive compulsive behavior and diabetes insipidus.


The same personality factors that place individuals at risk for substance abuse are often found in individuals with eating disorders. With addiction and eating disorders there is a need to discharge affective experience through action rather than feeling or being able to talk about them, an inability to regulate tension, the need for immediate gratification, poor impulsive control, and a fragile sense of self. Often in those with eating disorders and substance abuse problems drugs or alcohol is used in attempts to avoid binge eating. Similarly, those with eating disorders may deny their problem or attempt to keep it a secret, much like addicts try to conceal their drug and alcohol usage. Similar to genetic components of addiction, there is a large genetic component to body type.

Developmental etiology:

Research from a family systems perspective indicates that eating disorders stem from both the adolescent’s difficulty in separating from over-controlling parents, and disturbed patterns of communication. When parents are critical and unaffectionate, their children are more prone to becoming self-destructive and self-critical, and have difficulty developing the skills to engage in self-care giving behaviors. Such developmental failures in early relationships with others, particularly maternal empathy, impairs the development of an internal sense of self and leads to an over-dependence on the environment. When coping strategies have not been developed in the family system, food and drugs serve as a substitute.