Among all psychiatric illnesses, anorexia claims the most number of lives. Food is the trigger for many who suffer from eating disorders, and you cannot simply “stop” eating. Finding effective therapies is crucial because eating disorders affect approximately 5% of the population.
Psychedelic treatment has been demonstrated to be effective in treating a variety of mental diseases, according to the evidence. The antidepressant and antianxiety benefits of psychedelic therapy may benefit eating disorder patients who also have depressive and anxious symptoms. Eating disorders frequently co-occur with depression and anxiety. Before delving into the use of psychedelics, let us explore a little bit more about eating disorders.
A little bit about eating disorders
Eating disorders are a collection of conditions that are characterized by extreme and distributed habits regarding eating. Some of the main symptoms of eating disorders include over-eating or not eating at all and having distressing thoughts about food.
There are mainly four different categories of eating disorders:
- Anorexia Nervosa: Characterized by not eating food or severely under-eating, over-exercising, or both.
- Binge-eating: Binge-eating comprises over-eating regularly.
- Bulimia Nervosa: Some symptoms of bulimia nervosa include eating a huge amount of food followed by making up for the over-eating by forced purging or taking laxatives.
- Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): In this condition, the patient tends to avoid certain foods or restrict eating food, or both.
- Other Specified Eating or Feeding Disorder (OSFED): Any eating disorder with symptoms that don’t fit into any of the above-mentioned categories, can be classified as OSFED.
Current treatments of eating disorders
The causes of eating disorders are largely unknown. Eating disorders are likely to be the result of a spectrum of environmental, physical, and biological factors. Typically, eating disorders are treated with CBT or “cognitive behavioral therapy”. CBT aims to help people change their negative perceptions and attitude around food. Along with a therapist, the guidance of a dietician to ensure a proper healthy diet is necessary for the treatment of eating disorders. Usually, there are no specific drugs that can be prescribed for the treatment of eating disorders alone. When coupled with other mental illnesses such as depression, existential disorders, or anxiety, drugs may be prescribed.
How psychedelics can treat eating disorders?
Research shows that psychedelic therapy can have promising effects in the treatment of certain mental illnesses like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, existential crisis, and the like. The antidepressant or anti-anxiety effects of psychedelic treatment can help in the treatment of eating disorders. It helps people who suffer from eating disorders change their perceptions and attitude toward food. Psychedelics have the power to induce changes in brain activity. Therefore, it can alter some changes in brain activity that lead to eating disorders.
Following are some of the most commonly used psychedelics for the treatment of eating disorders.
Sometimes, eating disorders develop as a response to past traumas. MDMA therapy could assist people with eating disorders establish trauma coping mechanisms that don’t entail restricting their diet and weight by enabling them to comprehend and process their traumas better.
Psilocybin, also commonly referred to as magic mushrooms, has shown promising results in the treatment of mental illnesses like obsessive-compulsive disorder, abbreviated as OCD, depression, and anxiety. Obsessive thoughts and compulsive attitudes are two traits that OCD and eating disorders have in common. Psilocybin therapy’s success in treating OCD serves as a testament to how successful it might be in treating eating disorders.
A study of patients with eating disorders showed that ayahuasca led to a rapid decrease in attitudes and symptoms associated with eating disorders. It helped patients process painful memories or thoughts and improved self-acceptance.
One of the major symptoms of eating disorders is compulsive behavior. For example, throwing up after a meal. Research has shown that when ketamine infusions were given to patients with eating disorders, it helped reduce compulsive behavior. It shows how ketamine therapy could be an effective treatment for eating disorders.
The approaches used to treat eating disorders today frequently fall short. Therefore, it is understandable why researchers are looking into psychedelics as a different kind of therapy to treat this fatal psychiatric condition.
There is sufficient evidence to support the theory that therapy utilizing various psychedelics may be helpful in treating patients who suffer from various eating disorders. It is critical that this field of study continues since the high incidence and death rate attributed to eating disorders make it imperative to identify novel treatments.