Q & A: Can a Head Injury Help an Eating Disorder?

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
July/August 2005 Volume 16, Number 4
©2005 Gürze Books

Q: I’ve recently been told about a patient with anorexia nervosa whose eating disorder seemed to improve after she sustained a head injury in an automobile accident. Is that possible? (D.K., Chicago)

A: Remarkably, several cases of “spontaneous” improvement of patients with severe eating disorders following head trauma and even after brain surgery have been reported in the medical literature. One center reported on two patients whose eating disorders improved after right temporal lobe lesions: (1) a woman with bulimia nervosa and partial seizures arising from the occipital and right temporal regions, and (2) a woman with anorexia nervosa that resolved after a head injury resulted in right-sided inferofrontal and temporal encephalomalacia. The authors reported that not only did both patients’ eating disorders resolve, but their moods and libidos also improved (Levine et al, Epilepsy Behav 2003; 4:781). These interesting clinical observations add to the suspicion that, in at least some patients, still-mysterious processes involving the temporal lobe may be at work in the pathogenesis of eating disorders.

— J.Y.

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