How food restriction can lead to mental health issues

Richard Kerr's picture

No many people with bulimia know this, but food restrcition can lead to mental health issues. 

According to research common psychological symptoms of food restriction include:
 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Food obsession
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Mood swings
  • Thought disturbances
  • Social withdrawal
  • Low self esteem

 

Food restriction can lead to mental health symptoms

Ansel Keys’s ‘Semi-starvation study, University of Minnesota’, 1950 showed a connection between food restriction and psychological health problems.

In this study thirty Six previously healthy men volunteered to endure three months of semi-starvation followed by three months of re-feeding.

Prior to the study all men were screened and all had exceptionally good physical and mental health.

What happened to the men

Of all the 40 men chosen, most developed food obsession and became depressed.

In severe cases: 4 dropped out because they could not tolerate semi-starvation: 3 developed binge-eating, 2 began to steal food, 1 suffered severe depression and 2 were admitted to hospital due to symptoms of psychosis.

This study was an important advancement in understanding eating disorders and revealed that over a period of time food restriction can lead to serious physical and psychological health problems (Garner 1997).  Researchers pointed out that such health problems from food restriction are incredibly similar to physical and psychological health problems associated with eating disorders (Polivy, J & C.P Herman 1976).

Men from semi-starvation study, 1950 showed the following psychological and mental symptoms:

Symptoms of Bulimia

Symptoms of Semi-Starvation

 

  • Binge eating, purging
  • Food pre-occupation
  • Memory loss
  • Mood swings
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression
  • Hysteria
  • Food obsession
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Increased body image dissatisfaction
  • Social withdrawal
  • Guilt feelings after eating
  • Binge eating (several vomited after)
  • Food pre-occupation
  • Memory loss
  • Mood swings
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression
  • Hysteria
  • Food obsession
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Increased body image dissatisfaction
  • Social withdrawal
  • Guilt feelings after eating

Semi-starvation study and bulimia

Serious binge eating developed in a subgroup of men, and this tendency persisted in some cases for months after the men were permitted free access to food.

The majority of men reported a gradual return of normal eating after around 5 months of after re-feeding had began.

Due to binge eating being reported it raised speculation about primary psychological disturbances involved in the development of binge eating in patients with eating disorders.

A relatively large amount of research supports these finding, indicating that continual dieters display noticeable overcompensation in eating behavior that is similar to the binge eating observed in eating disorders.

Researchers also compared a group of War II prisoners to non-interned veterans . The WWII war prisoners lost an average of 10.5 Kg during the war. When a self-questionnaire was returned from both groups to see if binge eating had been prevalent during their lives, guess what group experienced a significantly higher frequency of binge eating? Answer: WWII prisoners who experienced weight loss!

(Polivy & Herman, 1985, 1987; Wardle & Beinart, 1981).

 

 

The good news is: when you begin eating normally again there is a good chance that mental health symptoms can disappear on their own.

To learn more about our recovery program you can sign up to our free recovery course.

 

The information provided in this website is for information purposes only. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Please refer to the full disclaimer and copyright. If you do think you might suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to your General Practitioner, as there are many physical complications that can arise from being at an unhealthily low weight or from losing weight very quickly, or from purging. We advise you to seek professional help with working on an eating disorder.

 

Copyright © BulimiaHelp.org. 2013. All rights reserved.