Endorphins are endogenous opioid polypeptide compounds. They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus during strenuous exercise. Their effects are analgesic and euphoric. Endorphin release is suppressed by the neurological effects of starvation. In an eating disorder, exercise provides a temporary feeling of well-being or euphoria, although as weight loss continues the euphoric affect diminishes requiring greater periods of physical exertion or exercise. Patients experience withdrawal symptoms with feelings of guilt or anxiety when exercise routines are missed. In addition, endorphins, specifically enkephalins, contribute to the 'addictive’ nature of self-injury, acting as natural pain killers. This behavior becomes addictive as the person associates self-injury with positive feelings or relief from anxiety.
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