Anorexia is not about a fear of getting fat, but rather a pleasure at losing weight, experts reveal,” says the Daily Mail. The headline oversimplifies the results of a study that looked at women’s responses to photos of women of varying weights.
In the study, 71 women with anorexia and 20 without were shown photographs of women who were either a normal weight, underweight or overweight, while monitors recorded sweating caused by emotional excitement. This type of test, known as a skin conductivity test, is reported to be a way of assessing levels of emotional excitement.
Researchers found women with anorexia felt more negatively about images of normal and overweight women, and more positively about images of underweight women, compared with women without anorexia.
This suggests a desire to be thin may be more important than a fear of getting fat, say the researchers. This hypothesis, unproven as it currently is, could explain the continuing popularity of “pro-ana” websites. These sites often use pictures of underweight women to promote the so-called “anorexia lifestyle”.
The researchers also tried to see if this “getting thin is pleasurable” attitude was linked to a specific gene type known as Val66Met, but the results were inconclusive.
Anorexia carries the highest risk of death among all mental health conditions. If you are worried you may have anorexia or someone you know has it, it’s important to get medical help as soon as possible. You can start with your GP, or by visiting the Beat, a UK charity supporting people with eating disorders.