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Keywords:

  • emotional perception;
  • emotion regulation;
  • depression;
  • eating disorders;
  • anger

Abstract

Objective

Emotion regulation is a key issue for many psychiatric and psychosomatic disorders, including eating disorders. Eating disordered patients (EDP) show high levels of depressive comorbidity, and there is much uncertainty about disorder-specific deficits. This study is aimed at delineating disorder-specific disturbances of emotional perception in EDP.

Method

Fifty-two EDP were compared with 35 depressed patients (DP) and 25 healthy controls. They rated their emotional experience when viewing visual emotional stimuli. Emphasis was placed on the patients' perception of their own emotions and not on the recognition of emotions in others. Severity of depression was assessed by the Beck Depression Inventory.

Results

Eating disordered patients and DP reported less anger than healthy controls—independent of the severity of depression. In addition, DP showed increased levels of disgust when confronted with anger stimuli. Happiness was rated less in EDP and DP, which was associated with severity of depression. There were no differences between the EDP subgroups bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.

Conclusion

Eating disordered patients and DP showed alterations of emotional perception of anger, an emotion which is closely linked to interpersonal difficulties. Alterations in emotional perception of EDP and DP might be due to more general emotion regulation disturbances. In order to detect more subtle differences between psychiatric subgroups, more sophisticated investigation tools are needed. Increased disgust ratings in DP merit further investigation. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.