A new study found that people who take pride in losing weight are more likely to indulge in anorexic behavior.

The desire to look thin has never been greater. People are often found to experience peer pressure to lose weight and look slim. Hence, they indulge in weight loss programs. However, a new study found that people who take pride in losing weight are more likely to also indulge in anorexic behavior.

For the study, lead author Edward Selby and his team measured the emotional states of 118 women aged between 18 and 58 years that were receiving treatment for anorexia nervosa. The analysis was carried out for two weeks. The team found that most of the participants suffered from negative emotions about their weight but felt emotionally positive about being able to maintain and exceed their weight-loss goals.

"What we think happens is that positive emotions become exaggerated and are rewarding these maladaptive behaviors," said Selby in a press statement. "Since only about one-third of women recover after treatment, what we need to do is gain a better understanding of why these positive emotions become so strongly associated with weight loss rather than with a healthy association such as family, school or relationships."

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by excessive weight loss, persistent interference with weight gain and body image disturbance.  Anorexia can lead to severe medical complications, is difficult to treat, and a high percentage of patients eventually die by suicide.  Previous research into eating disorders has focused mainly on how negative emotions like being sad, angry, or having a lack of control contribute to anorexia, an emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat. This is the first study that looks into how positive emotions are distorted by these negative attributes.

"Women with anorexia are often in complex emotional places, that is why it is important to understand all we can about what they are getting out of this experience," said Selby. "The more we know not only about the negative emotions, but also the positive emotions connected to this disease, the more likely we will be to treat this devastating illness."

Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, anorexia death rate is 12 times higher for females between the ages of 15 and 24 than all other causes of death combined.