Emotional Processing Following Recovery from Anorexia Nervosa


Anna Oldershaw, MSc, PhD, Section of Eating Disorders (P059), Division of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, SE5 8AF, London, UK. Tel: +44(0) 20 7848 0160; Fax: +44(0) 20 7848 0182. Email: anna.oldershaw@kcl.ac.uk



Evidence suggests that poor emotional processing perpetuates anorexia nervosa (AN); however, emotional processing following recovery and interactions between aspects of processing remain unknown. This study examined beliefs about emotions, emotional tolerance and avoidance and emotion suppression to preserve relationships in recovered AN patients. It also explored whether beliefs about emotion are related to emotional avoidance.


A cross-sectional between-groups design was employed.


Currently ill (n = 40), recovered AN patients (n = 24) and a sample of healthy controls (n = 48) completed measures of clinical and demographic background in addition to the Beliefs About Emotions, Distress Tolerance and Silencing the Self emotional processing questionnaires.


Recovered and healthy control groups were comparable (except for higher externalised self-perception in recovered participants) and both had better emotional processing than current AN patients. Beliefs about emotions correlated with level of emotional avoidance.


This study demonstrates functional levels of emotional processing following recovery from AN. It substantiates models proposing that maladaptive beliefs about emotions link to emotional avoidance and supports inclusion of these factors as treatment foci. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.