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Anorexia: Why some people get deeper and deeper into a state of hunger

LAccording to statistics, one percent of the German population suffers from anorexia nervosa, known in technical jargon as anorexia nervosa. Ten to 15 percent of these people starve to death. For decades, the causes of starvation were attributed exclusively to an unbalanced soul: sometimes the mothers were to blame, sometimes it was the group dynamics among friends. In the meantime, the focus is on social media, which convey a supposedly perfect body image with their filters and effects.

But that doesn’t explain “why they get ever deeper into a state of hunger, to which they react very differently than healthy people,” says Jochen Seitz, senior physician at the Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy of Children and Adolescents at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technical University (RWTH) Aachen. Unlike in healthy people, hunger does not activate the circuits in the brain that motivate eating. On the contrary, it conveys a feeling of satiety. For a long time, researchers blamed the lack of hunger drive on the happiness of resisting food and being in control. Increasingly, another connection moves into focus.

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