Cognitive avoidance in the strategic processing of ego threats among eating-disordered patients




This study of strategic processing examined whether it is possible to demonstrate cognitive avoidance of ego threats in women with eating disorders, using a task that involves less automatic identification of threat cues.


Fifty eating-disordered (anorexic and bulimic) and 50 comparison women completed a task of strategic processing, assessing their speed of solving neutral, food-related, and ego threat-related anagrams.


Cognitive avoidance of threat-related information was shown, but only among women with bulimic characteristics. The presence of bulimic behaviors (binging and vomiting) was the clearest factor associated with such avoidance. There was no evidence of avoidance of disorder-related (food) cues.


Research and therapeutic implications are discussed, including the potential utility of therapies that directly or indirectly address the schema-level representation of ego threats when working with eating pathology. © 2005 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.