Das extrem weibliche Gehirn und Essstörungen

Ein Artikel beleuchtet einen Zusammenhang zwischen dem „extrem weiblichen Gehirn“ und Essstörungen:

Simon Baron-Cohen pioneered the idea that different brain types evolved to process information in gender specific ways. Here we expand this approach to looking at eating disorders as a byproduct of the extreme female brain. The incidence of eating disorders is higher among females, and recent findings show that hormones may play a role in eating disorders. We present new evidence from four studies that both an empathizing bias and hypermentalizing (as measures of the extreme female brain; EFB) are related to disordered eating and negative evaluation anxiety in women. We also advance the novel hypothesis that concerns about animal welfare (a unique expression of the EFB) may account for the relationship between vegetarianism and eating disorders.

Quelle: From One Extreme to the Other: Negative Evaluation Anxiety and Disordered Eating as Candidates for the Extreme Female Brain

Dazu aus einem Bericht über die Studie:

Zunächst zu dem „extrem männlichen Gehirn“:

According to an influential and controversial theory, autism is the manifestation of an „Extreme Male Brain“. The reasoning goes something like this – the condition is far more prevalent in males than females; people with autism think in a distinctive style that’s more commonly observed in men than women (that is, high in systematising and low in empathising); and greater testosterone exposure in the womb appears to go hand in hand with an infant exhibiting more autism-like traits in later childhood.

Autismus als „extrem männliches Gehirn“ hat aus meiner Sicht als Theorie einiges für sich. Es würde jedenfalls erkären, warum die Krankheit weitaus häufiger bei Männern auftritt.

Und dann zum extremen weiblichen Gehirn:

Simon Baron-Cohen, the psychologist who first proposed the theory, always conjectured that there may also be such a thing as an „Extreme Female Brain“. Now in a new paper, a pair of researchers in the USA have made the case that the Extreme Female Brain exists, it’s highly empathic, and it comes with its own problematic consequences, in terms of a fear of negative evaluation by others, and related to that, a greater risk of eating disorders (which are known to be far more prevalent in women than men).

Also das extrem weibliche Gehirn als besonders empathisch und gleichzeitig besonders darauf bedacht, dass es nicht negativ bewertet wird. Die Essstörung wäre dann eine Übertreibung der kulturellen Normen für Schlankheit durch Übererfüllung.

Aus der Studie:

Evidence from all four studies converge to show that a combination of disordered eating and negative evaluation anxiety are associated with a cognitive style that Baron-Cohen (2002) predicted for the EFB. Social anxiety, particularly negative evaluation anxiety, appears to represent a salient feature of the EFB. The intense fear of becoming fat, a defining feature of eating disorders, may not be the fear of fat itself, but a fear that arises from the potential to be evaluated disparagingly by others. Disordered eating may be a predominant way in which negative evaluation fears manifest. An interesting consequence of eating disorders is the profound decrease in levels of estrogen (Sharp and Freeman, 1993). The changes in estrogen levels are responsible for amenorrhea, a defining characteristic in anorexic women. A significant drop in estrogen levels may also produce changes in empathizing and theory of mind performance. Comparable to the heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli (auditory, visual and tactile) common among people with autism, individuals with the EFB may be hypersensitive to social stimuli. Disordered eating may ameliorate the experience of negative evaluation anxiety that results from heightened sensitivity to social stimulation. Consistent with this idea, emotional processing deficits have been linked with eating disorders including the inability to recognize, label and describe emotions in detail and to link feelings with bodily correlates (Bourke, Taylor, Parker and Bagby, 1992; Eizaguirre, de Cabezon, de Alda, Olariaga and Juaniz, 2004; Garner, Olmsted and Polivy, 1983). Also, compared to healthy controls, women with anorexia had difficulty recognizing emotions from facial expressions and vocal tones (Jansch, Harmer and Cooper, 2009; Kucharska-Pietura, Masiak, and Treasure, 2003)

Also wie bereits dargestellt die Angst vor der Bewertung anderer. Etwas verwunderlich wäre daran, dass ja gerade Magersüchtige einer solch negativen Bewertung ausgesetzt sind und sich teilweise gerade dagegen behaupten müssen. Das spricht aus meiner Sicht eher für ein gestörtes Selbstbild als nach dem reinen Wunsch anderen zu gefallen.  Vielleicht entsteht dieses gestörte Selbstbild ebenfalls als Folge des extrem weiblichen Gehirns. Ich hatte hier ja schon mal angeführt, dass Schlankheit, wenn man sie als Signal für eine nicht so gute Versorgung und damit einen unzureichenden Versorger sieht, und damit als gute Basis für ein männliches Attraktivitätsmerkmal, gerade von Frauen übertrieben werden könnte, sie also im Rahmen intrasexueller Konkurrenz dünnere Frauen eher als Bedrohung sehen und daher ein noch schlankeres Schönheitsideal entwickeln könnten als Männer. Vielleicht wird auch dies hier übertrieben und es kommt so dazu, dass sie ganz besonders schlank sein will.

Interessant auch der Zusammenhang mit einer vegetarischen Lebensweise:

As shown in Study 1 and replicated in Studies 2, and 3 it is important to reiterate that as scores on the empathizing quotient increase, levels of disordered eating also rise. People with greater empathizing skills would be expected to be more sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. An interesting interpretation of these data involves the disproportionate rates of vegetarianism among individuals with eating disorders. For example, numerous studies have found a positive association between vegetarianism and eating disorders (e.g., Bas, Karabudak and Kiziltan, 2005; Robinson-O’Brien, Perry, Wall, Story, Neumark-Sztainer, 2009; Yackobovitch-Gavan et al., 2009). Most investigators interpret this relationship as evidence confirming health-conscious, restrictive eating patterns among people with eating disorders. However, an alternative hypothesis consistent with the data presented here is that individual differences in empathizing may affect dietary choices as a consequence of heightened concerns about animal cruelty and animal welfare. Rather than being used as a method to reduce caloric intake, vegetarianism may actually be a by-product of the greater empathizing capacities among individuals with EFBs. A study by Yackobovitch–Gavan et al. (2009) showed that vegetarianism is not only associated with disordered eating, but it can be thought of as a premorbid condition that affects the course and outcome of anorexia. In their study, vegetarianism reduced the probability of symptom remission by a factor of over 12 times. If vegetarianism is viewed as an expression of greater empathizing capacities, the corollary hypothesis would be that heightened levels of empathizing may function as a prelude to eating disorders, as well as an important risk factor for its development. Future research should explore empathizing and mental state attributions as variables that may influence both the onset and outcome of eating disorders.

Vegetarier hätten demnach eher Essstörungen, weil gerade Frauen mit extrem weiblichen Gehirn aus Mitleid mit den Tieren eher Vegetarier sind.