Emotion-processing deficits in eating disorders




First, we measured both emotional awareness and alexithymia to understand better emotion-processing deficits in eating disorder patients (EDs). Second, we increased the reliability of the measures by limiting the influence of confounding factors (negative affects).


Seventy females with eating disorders were compared with 70 female controls. Participants completed the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI; depression), the Hospital and Anxiety Depression scle (HADS; anxiety), the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS; alexithymia), and the Level of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS).


EDs exhibited higher alexithymia scores and lower LEAS scores, with an inability to identify and describe their own emotions, as well as an impairment in mentalizing others' emotional experience. Whereas alexithymia scores were related to depression scores, LEAS scores were not. After controlling for depression, alexithymia scores were similar in EDs and controls.


The marked impairment in emotion processing found in EDs is independent of affective disorders. Thus, the joint use of TAS and LEAS suggests a global emotion-processing deficit in EDs. © 2005 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.