PALO ALTO, Calif., Oct. 8 (UPI) — A U.S. study has found a link between eating disorders in adolescents and non-lethal, self-injury behaviors like cutting and burning, its authors say.
Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine studied medical records of nearly 1,500 patients ages 10 to 21 who were diagnosed with an eating disorder at a clinic, ABC News reported.
Less than half were screened for self-injurious behaviors when first seen at the clinic, researchers found, but of those screened nearly 41 percent admitted to cutting or burning themselves.
Health experts said the findings help confirm a long-suspected association between the eating disorders and self-injury.
“It’s generally held that these behaviors are fueled by an underlying level of anxiety and they branch out in many different ways,” Dr. Richard Pesikoff, clinical professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, said. “People do a variety of self-soothing behaviors like rocking, picking or cutting.”
“The eating soothes the anxiety, but creates a new set of problems,” Pesikoff said. “Then they worry about being fat. Then (they) have to resolve that. Then they cut.”
Cutting, typically done to the arms, offers physical relief from emotional pain, he said.
“Cutting produces endorphins that produce an anti-anxiety effect,” Pesikoff said.
One researcher hopes the study will encourage more universal screening for self-injurious behaviors.
“We do know that self-injurious behaviors happen more in adolescents with other issues, such as mood disorders or drug abuse, and people with eating disorders often have the same symptoms, so it makes more sense to screen more universally,” said study author Dr. Rebecka Peebles, now at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
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