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Keywords:

  • Eating disorders;
  • Anorexia Nervosa;
  • Emotion Recognition;
  • Emotion Regulation;
  • Emotional Processing

Abstract

It is recognized that emotional problems lie at the core of eating disorders (EDs) but scant attention has been paid to specific aspects such as emotional recognition, regulation and expression. This study aimed to investigate emotion recognition using the Reading the Mind in the Eyes (RME) task and emotion regulation using the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) in 20 women with anorexia nervosa (AN) and 20 female healthy controls (HCs). Women with AN had significantly lower scores on RME and reported significantly more difficulties with emotion regulation than HCs. There was a significant negative correlation between total DERS score and correct answers from the RME. These results suggest that women with AN have difficulties with emotional recognition and regulation. It is uncertain whether these deficits result from starvation and to what extent they might be reversed by weight gain alone. These deficits may need to be targeted in treatment. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Key Practitioner Message:

  • Clinicians can work to foster new skills in emotion functioning. This research shows that the acceptability of emotions and recognition of emotions are important factors, so specifically practising emotion recognition and examining the function of emotions might be useful treatment targets.

  • Building skills in emotion functioning may enable to client to feel more confident about social interaction and reduce isolation.

  • It might also be useful to involve the family to build a shared understanding of emotional functioning.