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Altered social hedonic processing in eating disorders


  • Supported by NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at South London; Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust; Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London; Swiss Anorexia Foundation.



Exploring social anhedonia in eating disorders (ED) was the main objective of this study. Social anhedonia relates to a reduced feeling of pleasure from social stimulation. Researching the exact nature of problems in interpersonal relationships is an important topic for clinicians and researchers in the field.


The revised social anhedonia scale was completed by 148 participants: anorexia nervosa (AN) n = 72; bulimia nervosa (BN) n = 19; recovered AN n = 14; healthy controls (HC) n = 43. Participants also completed mood related measures and the Toronto Alexythimia scale.


People with AN and BN had higher self-reported social anhedonia than people without ED. Recovered AN had an intermediate profile in between AN and HC. Clinical severity and alexithymia were strongly associated with social anhedonia scores.


Difficulty identifying and expressing feelings could be related to this diminished drive for social pleasure. Tackling these interpersonal maintaining factors in treatment is likely to be a worthwhile endeavor. © 2012 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012)