Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June Volume 27, Number 3
Difficulties regulating emotion have long been tied to disordered eating. A recent study provides more basic scientific information about this process in people with anorexia nervosa (AN).
A recent publication examines the ways women with AN process emotion (J Psychiatric Res. 2016. 77:1). Twenty women with diagnoses of AN were shown a variety of images, including negative and positive emotional images, pictures of food, and neutral images. They were then asked to either increase, decrease or not change their response to a startle stimulus (essentially, a loud noise) while viewing the images. The results showed that women with AN were able to diminish their startle responses to pleasant images and neutral images but were not as able to diminish those responses to negative emotional images or to food-related images. Also, women with AN were less able to increase their responses to pleasant images.
Note: These results further our understanding of how emotion is processed, and indicate that women with AN have a variety of changes in emotional processing that may be relevant to AN. More research in this area is needed, but the results reinforce the potential for emotional variables as treatment targets in AN.