A recent study conducted in Japan found that mindfulness meditation can help treat people suffering from anorexia.
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Anorexia Nervosa, more commonly known as Anorexia, is a mental disorder characterized by a person’s overwhelming desire to be thin and a fear of being overweight.
A person suffering from anorexia will have obsessive thoughts about the need to be thin and avoid gaining any weight, which can lead them to starve themselves, take on restrictive diets or induce vomiting.
Physically, they may become severely underweight, sometimes to the point where it can become fatal. Psychologically, the disorder causes a lot of stress and anxiety. The person frequently experiences negative thoughts and may have difficulty in cultivating a sense of calmness in their lives, due to constant worry. They may avoid leaving the house out of fear of being seen as overweight or unattractive to others.
Mindfulness meditation is a type of mental training process where you begin to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings without any judgement.
It combines meditation (developing internal focus, usually by sitting in a quiet place and focusing on the breath) and mindfulness (being fully aware of the present and drawing attention away from imagining or planning for the future and reminiscing about the past).
Mindfulness meditation can involve a lot of techniques but some common ones include deep breathing and awareness of the body and mind.
Study on Correlation Between Mindfulness Meditation and Anorexia
A study was conducted by a group of researchers from Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Medicine to determine the degree to which mindfulness meditation can be useful in helping treat Anorexia Nervosa.
Although mindfulness meditation has already been proven to be a useful tool in treating anorexia, its effectiveness in treating neurogenic emaciation was not previously studied.
The team of researchers found that mindfulness meditation did help reduce the anxieties that came with suffering from a mental disorder like anorexia nervosa. The study’s results show changes in the activity in the regions of the brain that are involved in triggering anxiety.
The study was conducted with the help of 21 anorexia patients. They were given a 4-week mindfulness intervention program and the neural changes in the participants were observed as well as analysed closely while they performed tasks aimed at reducing weight-anxiety.
The researchers made use of functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI to analyse the participants’ attention regulation with regards to eating disorders.
The study’s results proved the hypothesis that mindfulness meditation can mitigate weight-anxiety as well as obsessive thoughts on a neural level in anorexic patients. This affirmed the researchers’ subjective experiences and they unexpectedly found that besides personal worries, several global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war also contributed to the patients’ anxiety.
The lead author of the paper, Tomomi Noda explained that the results of the study suggested that the participants of the study came to accept their anxieties “as they are”. To elaborate, they did not feel the need to take any physical measures (restricting their diet, starving, inducing vomiting) to try to ease the anxiety and make themselves feel better about themselves or their weight. They simply became external observers of their anxious thoughts, without creating any judgement towards themselves.
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