Motivation to Eat and Not to Eat - The Psycho-Biological Conflict in Anorexia Nervosa

Physiol Behav. 2019 Jul 1;206:185-190. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.04.007. Epub 2019 Apr 10.


Anorexia nervosa is a severe psychiatric illness with high mortality. Brain imaging research has indicated altered reward circuits in the disorder. Here we propose a disease model for anorexia nervosa, supported by recent studies, that integrates psychological and biological factors. In that model, we propose that there is a conflict between the conscious motivation to restrict food, and a body-homeostasis driven motivation to approach food in response to weight loss. These opposing motivations trigger anxiety, which maintains the vicious cycle of ongoing energy restriction and weight loss.

Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; Anxiety; Brain; Conflict; Motivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Motivation / physiology*