Anorexia nervosa, or AN, is a severe mental illness characterised by extreme concerns about weight, shape, and self-esteem. AN symptoms include an eating disorder, nutritional restriction, deliberate vomiting, and severe emaciation.
Mindfulness meditation is already commonly used as a therapy for AN. Its clinical utility in treating neurogenic emaciation, on the other hand, has not before been explored. Mindfulness meditation, according to a team of researchers at Kyoto University's Graduate School of Medicine, does alleviate such worries. The study's findings demonstrate alterations in the activity of brain areas associated with anxiety.
The team's mindfulness meditation program has seen a significant decrease in obsessive thoughts about the test subject's self-image and brain activity associated with related emotions.
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"Our results suggest that the participants in the study became better at accepting their anxiety as it is," says lead author Tomomi Noda.
Mindfulness and meditation work hand-in-hand. The former teaches practitioners to hone their awareness of their present experience and their ability to not judge and rather accept their circumstances. The latter is the medium by which mindfulness can be approached.
"We focused on the possibility that patients with AN try to avoid their crippling anxiety about weight gain and self-image by restricting food or vomiting," adds co-author Masanori Isobe.
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A four-week mindfulness intervention program examined neural changes using tasks designed to induce weight-related anxiety. The researchers then regulated this anxiety by helping patients accept their current situations and experiences at face value, instead of avoiding them.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging – or fMRI – to analyse attention regulation in relation to eating disorders. The study's results support the subjective experiences of the researchers. However, it was unexpected to them that several global events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian war, were significant factors in patients' anxieties.
"We anticipate practical implications of our results in clinical psychiatry and psychology and broader research into mitigating suffering through mindfulness, using the strategy of self-acceptance to regulate attention," concludes group leader Toshiya Murai.