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Eating disorders and deficits in executive functions

Eating disorders are associated with deficits in executive functions such as anticipation, organization or decision-making. This is reflected in the first conclusions of a multi-institutional study carried out on women.

The study “Executive dysfunction in eating disorders: Relationship with clinical features”, in which the San Carlos Clinical Hospital of Madrid and the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM)along with other hospitals and universities, as well as the CYBERSAM (Center for Biomedical Research in Mental Health Network), points out that eating disorders in women are associated with deficits in neuropsychological functions, specifically in executive functions.

Executive functions are those responsible for helping control behavior, emotions, and adapting to changing environments.

The anticipationthe organization or the decision making there are some

Among the neuropsychological skills that have been most affected, research points to the ability to adapt to changing tasks, the inhibition of distracting stimuli, and processing speed.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are a group of severe mental conditions generally characterized by the presence of dysfunctional behaviors i irrational thoughts about food, nutrition, and body image. Being the most common anorexia nervosa and the bulimia nervosa.

The study, based on a hospital sample of 75 women that they suffer eating disorders i 37 healthy womencompare and analyze between both groups the different aspects of the psychopathology (anxiety, depression, impulsivity) through a series of questionnaires and carrying out different neuropsychological tests.

Andrés Pemau, researcher at the Department of Personality, Evaluation and Clinical Psychology of the UCMin statements to EFEsalut: “In general terms, eating disorders tend to affect more women and their appearance usually occurs during adolescence or early adulthood, although they can also prevail in adulthood” .

According to the study, people who suffer from this type of behavior present alterations in the different body systems: endocrine, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, immune, cognitive, along with emotional dysfunctions.

Thus, the effects derived from these disorders and other mental conditions, such as anxiety or depression, could be present in 70% of the cases. In addition, these behaviors are associated with a mortality risk significantly larger.

It’s not the type of disorder, but the severity

On the other hand, the patient group was divided according to the weight control profile, that is, if they restricted their intake or purged after meals, without addressing the diagnosis.

The results of the report conclude that what most conditions the correct development of these functions is not the type of disorder itself, but the severity of symptoms presented by patients.

“Different studies indicate that there is an increase in eating disorders in the last decade or so, and studies by other teams indicate that during covid and after it, there has been an increase and worsening of some symptoms” , concludes the expert.

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