Research has confirmed substantial links between OCD and AN. Not only are there psychopathological similarities between the two syndromes, but a marked neurochemical correspondence. Extensive exercising is a common feature of AN and also has relevance in its links with OCD. There is evidence from the exercise-induced weight-loss syndrome in animals that exercise and caloric restriction, in combination, tend to increase serotonergic activity in a synergistic manner. This syndrome has been proposed as a valid model of OCD as well as for AN. To date, little research has directly tested this theory in the human condition.Method
Fifty-three AN patients were categorized as high-level exercisers (N = 22) or moderate/nonexercisers (N = 31) based on the frequency of their physical activity over the year before assessment.Results
Exercisers scored significantly higher on a measure of OC personality characteristics, OC symptomatology, and perfectionism-a personality factor associated with the development of Obsesssive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. On the other hand, there were no group differences on other salient eating disorder characteristics such as body esteem, self-esteem, or weight preoccupation. There were also no differences in degree of emaciation as indicated by Body Mass Index.Conclusions
Findings suggest that among AN patients obsessional personality characteristics are linked to high-level exercising, and that exercising is associated with a greater degree of OC symptomatology. Results are discussed in the context of current theories of AN, OCD, and some biological mechanisms.