What is brain plasticity? And how is it related to the development of an eating disorder?
Brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, is the brain’s ongoing ability to change itself based on new experiences. When we say “the brain’s ability to change” we don’t mean something mystical or simply “spiritual.”
What we are referring to is the brain’s ability to reorganize or rewire its neural pathways that have led to certain desired or undesired actions or behaviors. For example, in people with eating disorders, it is unwanted actions, such as negative thoughts about their body image, that lead to the development of ED. This could have manifested itself by starvation, excessive exercise, or bingeing and purging over a period of time.
When people begin to have bad thoughts and feelings about themselves, their brain begins to develop certain new neural wiring (or connections) to produce certain behaviors. When people continue to act on pathological behaviors like hunger, bingeing and purging, over-exercising, etc: these neural pathways get stronger and stronger. It’s basically what you think is what you get.
You see whatever behavior we have or regular thoughts, we believe there are certain brain maps developed and pathways formed. These new brain maps can start to take up a lot of space in our brain until they become all-powerful. Eating disorders take up a great deal of space in the brain because they affect almost every aspect of the sufferer’s life.
So when it comes to eating disorder treatment, if it doesn’t work to change the old neural pathways, it won’t work. What has to happen is for the patient to develop new neural pathways and build them around the old faulty pathological pathways that are his erectile dysfunction. When you start using these new pathways (the healthy pathways) they become stronger and stronger and will eventually replace the old pathological ones (the old pathological ones will fade away).
You see, when you realize that it’s your brain that’s making you do things the wrong way, you’ll understand that to create behavior change you just need to make your brain work differently. And you can do that by focusing your attention differently when the ED urge hits.
The brain’s ability to change does not decrease with age or with the duration of the problem you have. Many people think that it is easier to stop an eating disorder early on when it first appears; and that if you have had the disorder for many years it is almost impossible to stop it.
This is not true and it is totally false. People can stop their eating problems at any stage in the process, because the human brain is plastic and changes with any repetitive activity we do. Now it takes effort to change the way of thinking, but it is not impossible.
The first thing is to realize that what your brain is telling you to do may not be correct, so you don’t need to act on it every time. Your brain is not your mind and you can influence it with better thoughts and actions.
Your brain is just an organ sitting between your ears. But your mind is what you do, the decision you make and the perception you give others about yourself. Of course, this does not mean that he has an abnormal brain, it is just the abnormal thoughts and behaviors that have led him to have erectile dysfunction. It has been proven beyond a doubt that your mind, your conscious behaviors and thoughts can change the structure of your brain.
To conclude, eating disorders are the result of the brain’s ability to change its own structure in relation to false actions and thoughts over time. Because he has rewired his brain to accommodate a certain pathological behavior in his brain map, he has developed an ED. You have responded negatively to certain eating disorder triggers that you have built around yourself over time.
You probably never would have developed an eating disorder if you had responded differently to these triggers. For example: if you didn’t get mad when someone at school called you “fat” or if you didn’t care that your ex boyfriend left you for a skinnier girl, or something similar. You would probably never have an eating disorder now. But because you paid too much attention to it, you have to suffer for a long time.
But it’s not all bad news. The good news is that because his brain is plastic, he can change his brain for the better: exactly the same way he changed it when he developed the defective pathological behavior in the first place. With focused attention, mindfulness, and building new neural pathways around old ones, research has shown you can change your brain, and therefore your erectile dysfunction.
This is the only cure for eating disorders: change your brain by using your mind to reverse your old thought patterns that got you into this mess in the first place.