A new paper analyzes how emotional characteristics may be used to predict the possibility of suffering an eating disorder.
Researchers focused on the way in which negative emotions are controlled and how attitudes to emotional expression can be used as tools to foretell dysfunctional eating.
The author of the paper, Ms. Aitziber Pascual Jimeno, presented her work under the title Emotions and emotional control in eating disorders: predictor role and emotional profiles.
The study focused on two objectives: to find out if certain emotional variables play a significant role in the development of these disorders and to know in more detail the emotional profiles, both of women at risk of contracting an eating disorder as well as of those already suffering from one.
To this end, the following emotional variables have been specified:
- Those relative to an emotional experience — the frequency of positive and negative emotions, anxiety, low self-esteem and the influence of diet, weight and the body shape on the emotional state
- And, negative perception of emotions, negative attitude to emotional expression, alexithymia (the inability to identify one’s own emotions and to express them verbally) and the manner of controlling negative emotions.
Moreover, another variable has also been taken into account: the need for control. This variable is not strictly emotional, but has a clear emotional component, given that people with a high need for control experience anxiety and un-wellness when perceiving lack of control.
In order to undertake the study, 433 women took part; 143 of these suffered from some kind of eating disorder while 145 were deemed to be at risk of contracting one.
The results of the study show that, in general, the majority of the variables put forward can be used as predictive of suffering an eating disorder.
The variables which, above all, alert to greater risk of developing an eating disorder are when the emotional state of the person is excessively influenced by diet, weight and body shape, when self-esteem is low, and when, in anxiety situations, emotions are not expressed and the person tends to act in an impulsive manner.
These results have important implications when designing prevention programs for eating disorders. With the data obtained, it can be said that many of the emotional variables dealt with in Ms. Pascual’s work should be taken into account when drawing up these prevention programs.
Source: Basque Research