• Luna Dahl Lind
  • Line Filskov Jakobsen
4. semester, Psykologi, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
This paper aims to answer the question: ”How can one understand the development of comfort eating with respects to the development of affect regulation mechanisms and general eating patterns according to a psychodynamic and neuropsychological viewpoint?”. Throughout the paper we argue that the highest aim for the development of the child’s affect regulation abilities compares to what authors of the theory of mentalization call mentalized affectivity. An inability to reach this ability can be viewed as a fault of some part of the early development, and we wonder whether comfort eating can be understood as just that. The paper therefore focuses on the affective development from birth to the age of 5 in order to answer the before mentioned question. Throughout the analysis we argue that somewhat inappropriate ways for the parents to interact with their child is one of the primary reasons for a child’s inability to develop more advanced affect regulation strategies and more flexible ways of using them. Therefore comfort eating – which can be understood more or less as a less advanced affect regulation strategy, which can be used more or less flexibly – can be seen as a potential result of improper parenting skills.
The method used to try and answer whether comfort eating can be understood as described is one of comparison between existing scientific results on the area and modern theories of the development of affect regulation. First the scientific literature with relevance to different aspects of comfort eating are presented, afterward which different theories of the development of affect regulation are presented.
In analyzing how proper and improper development of affect regulation compares with comfort eating behavior, we argue that comfort eating can be neurologically related to certain unregulated or inactive parts of the brain, such as the amygdala that controls primitive affective states, the cingulate cortex that regulates amygdala and contains the more advanced affective states, and parts of the præfrontal kortex among which the orbitofrontal kortex normally has an overall regulating role. All these parts of the brain are related to emotional or stress related reactions and seem to be affected by some of the same hormones and neurotransmitters that induce food intake. These substances include glucocorticoids, insulin and leptin. Altogether there are reasons to believe that the neurological basis for affective processes and the regulation of them are somewhat intertwined with processes relating to food intake. Therefore it seems that we can rightly assume that comfort eating can be understood as related to affect regulation on a neuropsychological basis.
On a psychodynamic basis it seems that a person tendency to comfort eat can be related to food being somewhat associated with the mother. This association is established quickly from birth and the interaction between the mother and the child during feeding sessions gives us reason to think that food represents of idea of the motherly care and affect regulating contact with the child. This association could be thought to continue into adulthood and be of importance if the person is not himself able to regulate his affective states – then he is able to access the mothers regulating characteristics by comfort eating instead. The theory of three modes of functioning can be further used to explain a persons need for his regulation strategy to be experienced as an active behavior, rather than a merely mental strategy. The modes also explain how a person could potentially associate comfort eating with a way of controlling his affective states or “fill up” an experience of inner emptiness.
Lastly we discuss whether it is reasonable to try to understand comfort eating as we have done throughout the pater. We discuss whether comfort eating is actually a regulation of affect or a regulation of experience and these two are different or aspects of the same process. We also discuss alternative viewpoints on our understanding of comfort eating, such as whether culture doesn’t play a large part in various disorders eating patterns such as comfort eating.
We conclude that comfort can indeed be understood as a result of a somewhat faulty development of affect regulating abilities, although we argue that comfort eating is a complex phenomenon and needs to be understood in a broader perspective than just a neuropsychological and psychodynamic viewpoint.
Udgivelsesdato28 maj 2014
Antal sider95
ID: 198226662