As an anorexic child, teen, and then young adult, I remember being horrifically lonely.
For years on end, I was SO lonely.
I would drive about as I went to school, work, therapy, and look longingly in the windows of cheerily bright restaurants. I would wonder if that would ever be me – sitting at a table with a group of actual friends, enjoying an evening full of laughter and genuine happiness.
I went on to find happiness in drugs and it ruined my life. I had to get addicted to something to forget my pain. Later I found my purpose in life and took help from different levels of care in a rehab and got back on my feet.
Today, even though I have many years of lovely restaurant memories under my belt at this point, I will never forget the pain of my earlier isolation.
This is precisely why, when we launched MentorCONNECT, the board chose as our slogan “Relationships Replace Eating Disorders.”
Without each other, life often seems scarcely bearable. And for folks struggling with eating disorders and other isolating addictive-type behaviors and thought patterns, the hope of ever authentically connecting with even one other human being often feels faint at best.
The memory of my own loneliness is also what drives me to stay connected with scientific research that illuminates possible effective treatments for folks with eating disorders in particular.
Thanks to Dr. Walter Kaye and his amazing team at UCSD, we now know that the brains of people with anorexia function differently than other brains.
And, even more recently, thanks to Dr. Janet Treasure and her team at King’s College, we are beginning to unlock a potential secret to easing isolation in anorexic patients.
Oxytocin has long been known as the “love drug” or the “bonding hormone.”
Both animal and human research now support the bonding power of oxytocin. Because of oxytocin, we love our kids, our spouses, our pets. Because of the presence of oxytocin, certain animal pairs take mutual responsibility for raising young…..and some also mate for life.
So could oxytocin perhaps also help to tone down anorexic patients’ inherent predisposition towards social anxiety and communication difficulties?
Could measured doses of oxytocin help these patients stop focusing so heavily on perceived disapproval by others?
Could oxytocin even go so far as to help mute the preoccupation with weight/shape/size/foods/calories and turn attention instead towards the chance to develop healing relationships?
From initial study results, it sounds like oxytocin may just be a vehicle to help facilitate all three goals.
Today’s Takeaway: How does loneliness affect you? Are there times when you are more or less susceptible to isolation and loneliness-inducing choices? What do you do when you notice you are feeling lonely? What do you need that you don’t have now that could help ease loneliness?