Can Psychedelics Help Treat Eating Disorder?
To begin with Psychedelics Therapy for Eating Disorder Food– the sustenance of life. It can nourish us, heal us, free us from hunger, and give us the energy to experience this beautiful life. The act of eating can be a sacred one. One that allows us to find regeneration, rest, and often quality time with a community.
In our modern times though, this view of food is not exactly the case for many. Although every individual has a unique relationship with food, we’ve all been subject to what ‘food’ means, through messages from our family, our culture, and the media.
Some of us may have experienced food as a reward, or the restriction of food as a punishment. We may have been taught that there are good foods and bad foods. We may associate certain meals with specific events, memories, and feelings, based on our individual life experiences. Mom’s chicken soup may be a ‘comfort food’ for when you weren’t feeling well.
Psychedelics Therapy for Eating Disorder
Birthday cake may bring the promise of celebration, while oysters may remind you of a time you were trapped in the bathroom for what felt like an eternity. Whether it be cake and birthdays, oysters and illness, or food and reward, our neural pathways are constantly connecting various experiences, ideas, and concepts together in order to create a comprehensive reality for us.
While this is an incredibly beautiful process done by our brain to help us navigate this reality, it can be damaging if these connections aren’t grounded in truth. When we’ve been immersed in one way of viewing something, or ‘tunnel vision’, it can be challenging to determine whether these views are truthful or helpful.
Active components found in psychedelics like psilocybin, mescaline, and LSD have been known to have a consciousness-shifting, perspective-altering effect, during which one can gain a different point of view.
How Psychedelics helps Eating Disorders
With all the programming we take in about food from our media, family, and culture, it’s no wonder 9% of the population worldwide is affected by eating disorders, with 28.8 million Americans having an eating disorder in their lifetime (ANAD, 2022).
Eating disorders are serious. They are debilitating conditions that negatively impact one’s life across many domains. In some cases, they can even take a life. “Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder” (STRIPED Harvard, 2020). There are many different ways of eating that could be considered ‘disordered’, and to receive a formal diagnosis.
Some eating disorders (ED) exist on their own, but many individuals struggling with eating disorders can be dealing with multiple forms of disordered eating, and are often challenged with other mental health struggles.
Psychedelics Therapy on Eating Disorders
In fact, 55-97% of people diagnosed with an eating disorder also receive a diagnosis for at least one more psychiatric disorder, making it challenging to isolate the exact causes of EDs, as more than half overlap with other various mental health challenges (National Eating Disorders Collaboration, 2023). Though, in most psychological work it’s understood that for people with an eating disorder, controlling food and controlling the body is often a way of relieving stress of feeling a sense of control over their life. Therapeutic psilocybin studies are already underway for the treatment of many other control-seeking disorders such as substance abuse and OCD.
With emotional regulation being the driving factor for these maladaptive behaviors, researchers believe psilocybin’s power to promote neural plasticity could catalyze the ED recovery process by reconditioning reflexive responses to environmental changes.
lastly Most associate EDs with those who restrict their eating (anorexia nervosa) or those who purge or engage in compensatory behavior after eating (bulimia nervosa). There is another type of ED that exists outside of the typical associations of anorexia or bulimia, which has been recently recognized as a disorder and increasing in prevalence.