‘Theory of mind’ in anorexia nervosa

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Abstract

The ability to make inferences about others' mental states has been termed ‘theory of mind’ (ToM). It underlies the ability to engage in complex social interaction and is impaired in autism. A subgroup of anorexia nervosa (AN) sufferers has autism-spectrum disorders/empathy disorders. The aim of the study was to explore whether, even in the absence of clear-cut autistic features, impairments in their ability to mentalize could be found in AN patients. Twenty patients with AN and 20 female healthy control (HC) subjects were tested using: (1) a story comprehension task (ToM stories and control stories); and (2) a cartoon task (ToM cartoons and control cartoons). Individuals with AN performed worse than HC subjects on ToM and on control tasks. However, there was no evidence of any selective impairment of ToM in AN sufferers. These findings do not support a specific link between impaired ToM and AN. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.

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