Does An Eating Disorder Make You Socially Inept?

Isolation and eating disorders go hand in hand.

After all, if you’re struggling with anorexia or bulimia, advertising it to the world is the last thing you want. So, many people with eating disorders find themselves spending more time alone–or at least enough time to engage in their disordered eating behaviors, like binging, purging or using laxatives.

But does this isolation permeate the rest of their lives?

A study from King’s College London reports that those with eating disorders get significantly less pleasure from social situations than those without eating disorders–and that helping the former group develop better interpersonal skills might be an important part of the recovery process.

Hedonia and Anhedonia

To determine how the study participants–148 of them–felt about social situations, researchers measured hedonia, which is when a person finds something pleasurable, and anhedonia, which is when a person doesn’t have interest in something.

The study included 72 anorexics, 19 bulimics, 14 recovering anorexics and 43 healthy control participants.

In both the anorexic and bulimic patients, 31 percent had social phobia. Fifty percent of the anorexics and 31 percent of bulimics had generalized anxiety disorder. These same two groups scored three times higher on the social anhedonia scale than the healthy control patients.

And for those in recovery from an eating disorder? They scored almost twice as high as healthy controls on the social anhedonia scale, suggesting that, even in recovery, eating disorder patients still struggle with social situations.


Authors note that social phobias help those with eating disorders maintain their problems by isolating them.

“Difficulty identifying and expressing feelings could be related to this diminished drive for social pleasure,” the authors wrote.

Helping them find pleasure and comfort in social situations, researchers say, is a key component of positive reinforcement and healing.

Source: Daily Rx

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