When I was first diagnosed with anorexia over a decade ago, no one told me about biology. No one told me about serotonin and anxiety and how starvation affects brain chemistry. Instead, I was peppered with questions about my intrusive mother, society's beauty ideals, and what I needed to choose recovery.
For many years, I stayed entrenched in my disorder, cycling between therapists, hospitals, and treatment programs. As time passed, I began to lose hope that things would ever get better. In my desperate search for information, I turned to the biomedical research journals that I had one trawled as an undergraduate biochemistry student. There, I learned things that up to 80% of the risk for developing anorexia is genetic, and that my childhood anxiety disorder was a major risk factor for the emergence of my eating disorder while at college. I learned that my brain isn't that good at figuring out when I'm hungry (or tired or cold or thirsty). I learned that my treadmill is my heroin.
Most of all, I learned that the only way out of my eating disorder was to eat and gain weight. Figuring out why I got sick could wait. Eat first, talk later.
No, I'm not perfect and I still play games of Whack-a-Mole with residual symptoms and the ongoing anxiety and depression that set off my initial striving to eat better and exercise more. But I no longer visit Emergency Rooms with such astonishing regularity that the staff knows my name. I own my own house. I have a steady boyfriend. I am living.
And I am living proof of how learning about biology and eating disorders can change lives. My blog here at Psychology Today will look at the body of evidence that supports the biological basis of eating disorders, and how it affects what we think about what causes eating disorders and how they are treated.
When I'm not blogging about recovery at my personal blog ED Bites, I'm a freelance science and medical writer. I'm currently at work on my third book about eating disorders, tentatively titled Decoding Anorexia: How Science Offers Hope for Eating Disorders, which will be published by Routledge in Summer 2012.
I look forward to meeting all of you!