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Anorexia Nervosa as a Disorder of Emotion Dysregulation: Theory, Evidence, and Treatment Implications


  • Debra L. Safer,

  • Eunice Y. Chen

Address correspondence to Debra L. Safer, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, CA 94305-5795. E-mail:


[Clin Psychol Sci Prac 18: 203–207, 2011]

At present, no evidence-based treatments are available showing benefit for adults with anorexia nervosa (AN). Reasons for the absence of large-scale controlled trials include AN’s relative rarity and challenges regarding participant retention. A promising investigative field is neuropsychology. Findings that AN patients demonstrate specific deficits in executive functioning are currently being translated into clinical interventions (e.g., cognitive remediation therapy). Emerging in parallel is literature emphasizing the role of emotion regulation deficits in disordered behavior. Originally developed for borderline personality disorder, emotion regulation–based treatments have been adapted for bulimia and binge eating. Haynos and Fruzzetti (2011) propose the utility of extending emotion dysregulation theories and treatments to AN, presenting evidence to support the need for further exploration in this area.