The Danger of Pride in Anorexia

Pride can be a tricky thing. It can, however, be a very positive signal that we’ve accomplished a goal. Feeling proud is a natural, and usually positive, emotion. But for some, it can be a driving force that leads them down a dark path.

New research conducted through Rutgers University shows pride about continued weight loss may fuel eating disorders like anorexia. Nearly 120 women being treated for anorexia nervosa were studied and had their emotional states evaluated over a two-week period.

Researchers found participants in the study experienced negative emotions and positive emotions, especially a sense of pride over their perceived success in losing and continuing to lose weight.

“What we think happens is that positive emotions become exaggerated and are rewarding these maladaptive behaviors,” said Edward Selby, an author of the study. “Since only about one-third of women recover after treatment, what we need to do is gain a better understanding of why these positive emotions become so strongly associated with weight loss rather than with a healthy association such as family, school or relationships.”

Anyone who has been on a weight loss journey of their own can attest to the subtle power pride can have over your common sense. You lose some weight, see the results, and begin to think of ways to see even more results or see them even faster. For some, it means exercising more often. For others, pride in their accomplishment can lead to skipping meals to lose a couple more pounds.

This process can lead to eating disorders like anorexia, which has a death rate 12 times higher than all other causes of death for women between the ages of 15 and 24.

It was found in the study that women who had the most difficulty recognizing when their positive emotions like pride became skewed were more likely to engage in behaviors like restricting calories, excessively exercising and constantly checking their weight.

Selby believes an important part of treatment is helping channel the positive emotions into constructive behaviors.

“Being in control is important for many of these women,” he said. “What we need to do is find a way to reconnect the positive emotions they feel in losing weight to other aspects of their lives that will lead to a more balanced sense of happiness.”

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62 comments

Mark Bloodworth
Mark Bloodworth2 years ago

It appears that the end of my last comment didn't get posted. That's why it ends somewhat abruptly.

Mark Bloodworth
Mark Bloodworth2 years ago

I suffered from anorexia and it almost killed me. Fortunately I am one of the lucky few to have made a complete recovery. Current treatments for anorexia actually exacerbate the disorder rather than alleviate it. In the UK we spend over £1billion a year treating eating disorders with relatively ineffective interventions.
I am a social worker and counsellor and I have devised my own treatment approach based on my academic, professional and personal experiences. I hope to start my own treatment project in the near future. This is dependent of securing funding. The health service here is very conservative and protectionist. They have been most uncooperative and have turned down requests for funding. It will cost £100000 to treat 24 anorexics using my approach. It costs the national health service(NHS)over £3 million to do the same! The difference is that I know that I can get these patients on the road to recovery. At the same time I also know that its highly unlikely that the NHS approach will facilitate sustained recovery with just about all their patients
My project will be a community based green initiative where the patients are given the freedom to make decisions for themselves. The emphasis will not be on food and weight gain but on developing sustained natural recovery that allows for a re balancing and helps the patients find peace with themselves and their environment.
It is a radical approach that has absolutely terrified many doctors I have spok

Barb Hansen
Ba H.2 years ago

it's all about getting attention

Nimue P.

Hardly surprising.

Nimue P.

Hardly surprising.

Nimue P.

Hardly surprising.

Donna F.
Donna F.2 years ago

it's amazing how easy it is, especially for young people, to make identities out of self-harm behaviors.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

Tanya Selth
Tanya Selth2 years ago

thanks

Steve McCrea
Steve McCrea2 years ago

Anorexia is often associated with childhood abuse or neglect, especially sexual abuse. It should not be surprising that those with eating disorders are meeting an internal need with this behavior - that's why they do it, it makes them feel better! Focusing on the eating aspect is not productive - it is more important to get at why the person chooses this particular approach to feeling competent, and to help him/her find other ways to feel good about him/herself. It usually means getting into childhood interpersonal and family issues. It's not about really about eating, it's about feeling in control of your life.

---- Steve