Emotion dysregulation and symptoms of anorexia nervosa: The unique roles of lack of emotional awareness and impulse control difficulties when upset

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Objective:Extant research suggests that individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) have deficits in emotion regulation across a variety of domains. The current study investigated associations between specific difficulties with emotion regulation and the core symptoms of AN.Method:Participants were 192 patients with AN presenting to an intensive eating disorder treatment facility. Emotion regulation was assessed using the multidimensional Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale, and associations with body mass index (BMI) at admission, eating disorder cognitions, objective binge eating, subjective binge eating, and purging were examined.Results:Eating disorder cognitions were significantly associated with multiple forms of emotion dysregulation; however, only lack of emotional awareness was independently related to these symptoms. In contrast, impulse control difficulties when upset was the only emotion regulation impairment associated with the presence of recurrent objective binge eating and recurrent purging in AN. No significant relationships between emotion regulation and BMI or subjective binge eating were detected.Discussion:Results point to differential associations between specific emotion regulation deficits and core symptoms of AN. These findings suggest that parsing the construct of emotion regulation as well as the AN phenotype can help to identify the unique ways in which eating disorder symptoms may function to regulate emotions. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2013; 46:713–720)

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