Could A Sensory Processing Disorder Be At The Root of Your Eating Disorder?

The reason eating disorders are so hard to treat is that they are such complex conditions. It is usually a combination of factors that lead up to the "perfect storm" of conditions that cause an eating disorder. Some of these factors are psychological, some are emotional, some are genetic, some are behavioral, and some are environmental.

The more health care providers understand what is at the root of your eating disorder, the better equipped they are to help design a treatment that addresses all these possible factors. That's why it's so important when researchers discover new connections between eating disorders and other conditions.

One recent study published in the "Global Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities" suggests that Sensory Processing Disorders may be linked to eating disorders in some people.

What Is a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

SPDs are when the brain has trouble processing sensory information. For example, someone whose brain has difficulty processing tactile (touch) sensory information may be extremely irritated by rough fabrics, seams, tags are sewn on the inside of their shirt or an unexpected touch from another. A towel might feel soft to you, but to a person with a tactile SPD, it might feel like sandpaper. A hug may feel like an assault.

In some cases, the brain has issues with just one sense; in more extreme cases, it has issues with all five senses. It's commonly found in people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism.

Living with an SDP can be draining because a person lives in perpetual anxiety, worrying about the next trigger that will aggravate his condition. The people around SDP sufferers have often been unsympathetic, seeing the sufferer as a difficult or fussy person who over-reacts.

How Do SPDs Relate to Eating Disorders?

Researchers have noticed that children with SDP often have nutritional deficiencies. This is because eating involves multiple sensory experiences. For some people, certain odors, food textures, or flavors are an unpleasant experience due to SPD. People with SPDs typically have limited food choices because they have aversions to the triggering sensory experiences those foods may cause.

People with eating disorders that involve food avoidance or pica (eating non-food items that have no nutritional value) may have SDP, the researchers theorize. More research is needed in this area, but if SDP is a factor in a person's eating disorder, it will help health care providers diagnose and treat both conditions better.

Sources: Eating Disorder Hope, Juniper Publishers

Photo: Pexels

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