Biological Explanations of Anorexia Nervosa

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Neurotransmitters- disturbances in levels of serotonin appear to be characteristic of individuals with eating disorders. Increased levels of dopamine also seems to result in AN as increased levels of the neurotransmitter alters the way people view rewards, therefore ANs are unable to associate good feelings with food.

Bailer et al (2007) found high levels of serotonin in recovering anorexics who showed the most anxiety, suggesting persistent disruption of serotonin may lead to increased anxiety, which triggers AN. However, research shows that SSRIs (which alter levels of serotonin) were ineffective when used with AN patients, suggesting the cause of AN is not relevant to serotonin.

Kaye et al (2005) compared dopamine activity of 10 women recovering from AN, and 12 healthy women. In the ANs they found overactivity in dopamine receptors in the basal ganglia, where dopamine affects the interpretation of harm and pleasure. Castro-Fornieles et al (2006) found higher levels of homovanillic acid (a waste product of dopamine) in adolescent girls with AN than a control group.

If anorexia is caused by a disruption in the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, it can be easily treated through drugs. This treatment technique is also good because it takes the blame off the patient, as there is nothing they could have done to prevent the onset of AN.

Neurodevelopment- Lindberg et al (2003) found a significant association between premature birth and development of AN. Birth complications may lead to brain damage caused by hypoxia, which impairs the neurodevelopment of the child. Other research such as Eagles et al (2001) suggest ANs are more




whats AN?



anorexia nervosa



Very helpful notes, the colour coding is particular useful!

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