Partner distress in the context of adult anorexia nervosa: The role of patients' perceived negative consequences of AN and partner behaviors

Authors

  • Melanie S. Fischer MA,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Donald H. Baucom PhD,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Jennifer S. Kirby PhD,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Cynthia M. Bulik PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    2. Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    3. Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
    • Correspondence to: Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, CB #7160, Department of Psychiatry, UNC Chapel Hill, 27599. E-mail: cbulik@med.unc.edu

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  • Supported by MH082732-01 and MH093615 from National Institute of Mental Health and by National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through Grant Award Number UL1TR000083.

ABSTRACT

Objective

Romantic partners can play an important role in the recovery from anorexia nervosa (AN). It is important to understand partners' behaviors and variables associated with their own distress. The aim was to examine associations of patients' perceived negative consequences of AN, behavioral strategies employed by partners, and partner distress.

Method

We used a cross-sectional design to assess associations between self-reports of patients' perceived negative consequences of AN, partners' caregiver distress, negative affect, relationship satisfaction, and observational coding measures of partners' behavioral strategies of change promotion and acceptance/validation. Sixteen adult patient-partner dyads in committed relationships were assessed at baseline of a couple-based intervention for AN.

Results

Partners' change promotion moderated the association between patients' perceived negative consequences of AN and partners' caregiver distress. Partners' acceptance/validation was associated with partners' negative affect.

Discussion

This report represents the first description of specific partner behaviors in the context of AN. Partners who reported the least distress were those who were trying to promote changes in AN behaviors in patients who reported high negative consequences of AN, and partners who were trying to show understanding of the patients' experience. Future studies should examine the impact of partner behaviors on AN treatment outcome. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2015; 48:67–71)

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