An exploratory assessment of theory of mind and psychological impairment in patients with bulimia nervosa



This study aimed to investigate psychosocial functioning and different dimensions of theory of mind (ToM) in people with bulimia nervosa (BN) and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified-BN type (EDNOS-BN). Psychosocial functioning and ToM were assessed in a sample of young adult females, 16 BN and 16 EDNOS-BN outpatients and 16 healthy controls (HCs). They were assessed using the Eating Disorder Inventory-Symptom Checklist-2 (EDI-2 SC) for evaluating psychological traits associated with eating disorders; the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90-R) for evaluating psychopathological status; and the Theory of Mind Assessment Scale (Th.o.m.a.s.), a semi-structured interview aimed at assessing a person's different dimensions of ToM. The BN and EDNOS-BN groups exhibited worse performance than the control group on all dimensions of the SCL-90-R, and on all dimensions of the EDI-2 SC. The only difference for perfectionism was that BN obtained higher scores than EDNOS-BN group. Our results also revealed an impairment of third-person and second-order ToM in patients with bulimia (BN and EDNOS-BN) with respect to control subjects. These preliminary data have important implications for future empirical work, in that they provide valuable information regarding the importance of investigating the various facets of ToM ability separately, in order to provide a more detailed profile of ToM functioning in the clinical samples.