The Role of Anxiety Sensitivity in Eating Pathology

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In past research, anxiety sensitivity (AS) has been identified as a risk factor for anxiety, mood, and alcohol problems. Little work, however, has examined the relationship between AS and eating pathology. We predicted that individuals high in AS would have elevated rates of eating disorder symptoms as measured by the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI).


Participants in two studies—one undergraduate sample (N = 88) and one clinical sample (N = 96)—were assessed for anxiety sensitivity and eating disorder symptoms.


In both samples, AS was significantly related to EDI-Bulimia scores, controlling for depressive symptoms, trait anxiety symptoms, and impulsivity. In the clinical sample, AS was also significantly related to EDI-Drive for Thinness, controlling for the same covariates. A follow-up analysis suggested that the relationship between AS and EDI eating disorder symptoms was mediated by EDI-Interoceptive Awareness.


Both studies were cross-sectional, which prohibits causal interpretations. The follow-up mediational analysis must be interpreted with caution due to overlap between the measures of AS and interoceptive awareness. Because of a small sample size and significant comorbidity, the exploratory results analyzing diagnostic categories in Study 2 must be interpreted with caution.


AS has a statistically significant relationship to certain eating disorder symptoms measured by the EDI. Future research should investigate whether high AS individuals utilize certain eating behaviors in an effort to regulate somatic symptoms of anxiety.

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