Central Sensitization in Chronic Pain and Eating Disorders: A Potential Shared Pathogenesis

Leslie Sim, Cindy Harbeck Weber, Tracy Harrison, Carol Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Although less recognized than other disruptions in functioning, individuals with chronic pain frequently display disturbances in eating associated with pain, changes in appetite, medication side effects, and prescribed elimination diets. Not only may changes in nutritional status and weight increase the risk for the development of an eating disorder, there is evidence that individuals with chronic pain and those with eating disorders share similar vulnerabilities that place them at risk for both conditions, as well as their comorbidity. This review will describe the temperamental, behavioral, and neurobiological risk factors linking chronic pain and eating disorders. We propose that these risk factors may reflect central sensitization, a condition of over-activation of the central nervous system that increases sensitivity to internal and external conditions. To manage high levels of sensitivity, individuals may develop unique patterns of behavioral avoidance, pain behaviors and/or restrictive eating. Using the framework of central sensitization, this review will discuss relevant assessment and intervention strategies to address sensitivity in eating disorders and chronic pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-52
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 4 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Central sensitization
  • Chronic pain
  • Eating disorders
  • Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis
  • Insula


Dive into the research topics of 'Central Sensitization in Chronic Pain and Eating Disorders: A Potential Shared Pathogenesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this