Neuroplasticity is the key to Eating disorders treatment.
Researchers are now suggesting that neuroplasticity could be the
answer to treating eating disorders. They are of the view that our
own brains, thoughts and emotions are not rigid or fixed in place.
But can be changed in order to treat and even cure eating disorders.
So what is neuroplasticity? Let’s define it.
The first part neuro is for neurone (which are the nerve cells in
the brain) and plasticity means plastic or changeable.
Neuroplasticity is the property of the brain that allows the brain
to change itself.
These changes occur in four ways:
(1) By responding to the world in a certain way
(2) By perceiving the world in a certain way
(3) By acting in the world in a certain way
(4) By thinking and imagining in a certain way.
All these activities can change the brain and the way it functions.
With “directed Neuroplasticity” scientists and clinicians can pass
onto the brain a calculated sequence of input and/or specific
patterns of stimulation to make desirable and specific changes in
the brain for the better.
For example, under certain kinds of stimulation the brains of eating
disorder sufferers can be made to stop focusing on food and weight
issues and start focusing on other things. By focusing on other
things (which is called focused attention) the brain develops new
connections between neurons and rewires itself. The old neuronal
connections (connections responsible for their eating disorder) will
became less and less active and eventually completely replace
themselves with the new connections. This is how neuroplasticity
works: by deleting old defective neuron connections and developing
new healthy ones.
To make it easier to understand, the brain is made up of many chains
of neuronal connections. These chains are responsible for producing
certain feelings; thoughts and actions that make people do things.
And by changing these connections we can change how they feel and
Some eating disorder sufferers may say: “Oh well, I’ve been
suffering for so long so I have probably done some damage to my
brain which is irreversible.” But according to neuroplasticity
principles the damage done does not matter and it can be fixed.
Even if some parts of the brain are damaged, other parts of the
brain can take over the function of the damaged parts; by developing
new brain connections (or neuronal pass ways) and re-routing them.
Having worked with eating disorder sufferers extensively, I have
noticed that many sufferers are aware that what they are doing in
terms of eating and dieting does not make sense, and is even doing
harm to the bodies.
But they still continue their erratic behaviour because they can’t
resist the continuous “voices” in their head telling them that they
are fat and must continue with their starvation, dieting, or
continue to binge and purge.
When you ask them “What do you think the voice is?” They normally
answer that it is their brain telling them to do what they do. But
when you tell them that it is not their brain, it is their ED (the
faulty wiring) telling them to starve themselves or binge and purge:
their thought processes start to change. And when they start
focusing on the fact that their eating disorder is something
separate from their brain, the changes in their behaviour became
To conclude, neuroplasticity is a great tool in the treatment and in
the cure of eating disorders: simply because the brain is not
static, but is dynamic and always changing. It undergoes many
changes throughout one’s entire life; you do not have the same brain
you were born with.
By influencing and directing these changes with the correct program
it is possible to change peoples eating behaviour, body image and
self-esteem. Neuroplasticity is the solution to all eating disorder
sufferers’ problems: change the way you think and you change your
Dr Irina Webster MD (retired).
How To Cure Eating
I have been searching for a great treatment
to cure Eating Disorders for a long time because I have a close
friend whose daughter Amy suffered badly from Anorexia and then
If you've been interested in finding the answer regarding a cure for
an Eating Disorders then this article will help you. You know that
eating disorders are conditions brought on when a person associate
food e.g.: refusing to eat or on the contrary compulsive overeating
and throwing up, with a feeling of being in control, pleasure,
truth, confidence etc.
To explain more: the person associates all their good positive
feelings, control, pleasure, truth and self-confidence with food.
They feel reassured by the control they have over their food intake
and use it as a substitute for their lack of control over their
feelings in the real world.
So, the question is - how do you go about changing these distorted
associations with food and what must be done exactly to get the
sufferer to see other avenues for themselves other than their
present conditions and misdirected dependence on food. More
importantly can we get the sufferer to change at all?
The answer is - Yes, we can.
But how can we do it? - We need to change the meaning she/he has
attached to food, to break the endless cycle they find themselves in
on to a totally different one: difficult yes, but not impossible.
Actually, all successes attributed to Psychotherapy only ever
depends on how quickly people can change the meaning they attach to
different things in life.
Here are three Fundamentals to create a new meaning in life (in the
case of eating disorder sufferers this is about food and Control):
1) Get leverage. This means you have get to the point where you
believe you must change, you must change your eating habits and you
MUST change it right now. You must believe that not to change will
be more painful and that change will bring you pleasure.
If you only get to the point of thinking that you maybe should
change. This is not enough to create a long lasting change in your
behavior. Only a definite MUST change will give you leverage.
2) Interrupt the pattern.
This is when you do something totally unexpected in relation to your
dominating thoughts in our case food.
For example, when a bulimic person gets a bit stressed by the end of
day or feels uncomfortable regarding something - the first thought
reaction for her/him would be binge eat and purge (this is the way
for her/him) to get pleasure, control and inner confidence.
For anorexic - the thoughts of success and looking good and being
confident associated with refusing to eat and starving yourself is
their way of dealing with things.
This pattern (thoughts association) needs to be interrupted with
some unexpected comment or behaviors which shocks the person into
paying more attention to what is going on right here and now in
For example, I watch on TV once how one American Psychotherapist
breaks the thoughts patterns of people with major phobias. One man
had a major phobia with spiders (he saw spiders everywhere and was
horrified just with his thoughts about spiders).
The Psychotherapist asked the guy: "How do you feel about spiders?"
The man turned pale and looked extremely anxious, and his answer
was: "Not very good..." And at this particular moment the
Psychotherapist jumped from his chair and started hopping on one
foot in front of the man shouting very loudly "Yam, yam, yam, yam,"
making jerky and funny movements with his whole body.
The man looked stunned, his attention was 100% on the
Psychotherapist now, he forgot instantly about his scary feelings
After jumping and shouting for a minute Psychotherapist stopped, sit
on his chair like nothing had happened (he looked normal and was
smiling and happily).
After a small pause he asks the man again how he feels about
spiders. The man did not answer straight away because he actually
needed a few seconds more to bring himself to the state of spider
During the few seconds when the man was thinking, the
Psychotherapist repeated what he did the first time, making the man
completely confused of what's going on.
The Psychotherapist repeated whole procedure quite a few times (5 or
What do you think happen to the man? He was completely cured of his
phobia, just from one single Psychotherapy section.
3) Breaking the old associations
An interview with this man taken a few months later was shown on TV
as well. In this interview he said that now he does not have scary
feelings about spiders any more and he stop seeing them.
He also said that now if someone mentions to him about spiders he
laughs, because he has a different association now, he associate
spiders with these funny things the Psychotherapist did during the
session where he was caught by surprise and even shocked with what
Another American Psychotherapist I know use to splash cold water
people's into faces at the time when people are describing their
fears or feelings of bad habits. Again it breaks the association
with their habits or phobias.
So the trick is to get the eating disorder sufferer to break their
association with food by interrupting their thought processes when
they feel compelled to not eat or eat and purge. You just need to
workout the most appropriate time to do it. You may not be able to
break their eating disorder with one single session but combined
this with other things and it will be of great benefit.
You can create lots of ways of interrupting someone's behavioral
pattern if you really start thinking about it. For more information
go to learn more about eating disorders.
Dr Irina Webster MD (retired) is the Director of Women Health Issues Program
which covers different areas of Women Health. She is a recognised
authority in the eating disorders area. She is an author of many
books and a public speaker. http://www.eatingdisorder-cure.com
University of Chicago Medical Center
September 7, 2007
Involving Parents In Therapy Doubles Success Rates For eating
Science Daily — In the first randomized controlled trial for
adolescent bulimia nervosa to be completed in the US, researchers
show that mobilizing parents to help an adolescent overcome the
disorder can double the percentage of teens who were able to abstain
from binge eating and purging after six months.
In the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, a team
based at the University of Chicago Medical Center show that almost
40 percent of participants in family-based treatment had stopped
binging and purging compared to only18 percent of those who received
supportive psychotherapy, the standard therapy.
Six-months after treatment, almost 30 percent of participants who
received family-based treatment were still abstinent compared to
only 10 percent of participants who received supportive
psychotherapy, which focuses on issues underlying the eating
"Parents are in a unique position to help their adolescents," says
study author Dr Daniel le Grange, Associate Professor of Psychiatry
and Director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of
Chicago, "yet treatment typically excludes them from the process.
Now we have the evidence that we need to bring them back in."
The trial, conducted at the University of Chicago, involved 80
adolescents, aged 12 to 19, with a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa
(typically characterized by binge eating and purging) or a strict
definition of partial bulimia nervosa.
Forty-one patients were randomly assigned to family-based treatment,
and thirty-nine patients were randomly assigned to supportive
psychotherapy. Patients from each group made 20 visits to the clinic
over a six-month period.
In family-based treatment, parents and at times even siblings attend
clinic sessions with the patient. Parents play an active follow-up
role at home, encouraging their adolescents to eat as normally as
possible, then monitoring them during and after meals to make sure
they eat and are not tempted to purge.
"For years parents have been left out of the treatment process," Le
Grange said. They often feel guilty about intervening. "But what
parent would step aside and play a minimal role in treatment if
their child was diagnosed with cancer" Nor should they if a child
has an eating disorder. Eating disorders pose serious health