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Keywords:

  • emotion regulation;
  • eating expectancies;
  • bulimia nervosa

Abstract

Objective:

Research suggests that emotion dysregulation or difficulties in the modulation of emotional experience constitute risk for eating disorders. Recent work has also highlighted the role of certain eating-related cognitions, specifically expectations of negative emotional reinforcement from eating, in the development of disturbed eating patterns. However, it is unclear whether these expectancies are merely a dimension of a general inability to regulate emotions effectively or rather a unique cognitive-affective risk factor for the development of an eating disorder. This study examines the unique contribution of eating expectancies to symptoms of bulimia nervosa (BN) after controlling for two dimensions of emotion dysregulation (alexithymia and experiential avoidance) previously implicated in the phenomenology of eating disorders.

Method:

Participants were 115 undergraduate women who self-reported demographics, alexithymia, experiential avoidance, eating expectancies, and symptoms of BN.

Results:

Eating expectancies uniquely contributed 12.4% of the variance in symptoms of BN, F(2, 108) = 11.74, p < .001. The final model was statistically significant, F(6, 108) = 13.62, p < .001, and accounted for 40.0% of the variance in symptoms of BN.

Discussion:

These results suggest that individuals who expect eating to provide emotional relief may be especially susceptible to disordered eating. Findings are discussed in terms of emotional risk models and clinical interventions for BN. © 2009 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2009