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Keywords:

  • eating disorder;
  • anorexia nervosa;
  • bulimia nervosa;
  • attentional bias;
  • anxiety

Abstract

Objective

Psychological treatments for eating disorders (ED) rely on mastery of effortful attentional control to divert attention from anxiety provoking thoughts. This paper assesses the potential suitability of attentional bias modification treatment (ABMT) for EDs as a way to target early automatic attentional processes and implicitly retune threat perception that happens outside of conscious control.

Method

We review data on anxiety in EDs, the neurobiological and behavioural relationship between anxiety disorders and EDs, attentional biases (AB) in EDs and the use of ABMT.

Results

Co-morbidities between EDs and anxiety disorders are common and negatively affect illness outcome. EDs and anxiety disorders share many underlying elements, including AB towards threatening and disorder-relevant stimuli. AB has been modified across a range of anxiety disorders using ABMT. It is possible to modify AB in EDs.

Conclusion

There is evidence to suggest that ABMT has potential as a targeted, rapid and convenient treatment option for EDs. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.