A randomized, controlled pilot study of positive affect treatment adapted for anorexia nervosa

Ann F. Haynos, Lisa M. Anderson, Autumn J. Askew, Chassidie Liu, Kira Venables, Michelle G. Craske, Carol B. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Novel treatments for adults with anorexia nervosa (AN) are sorely needed. Although psychological interventions have been developed for AN, none have been identified as superior to one another or nonspecific treatments. Common comorbidities (e.g., mood and anxiety disorders) are rarely targeted in AN treatments, possibly impairing long-term clinical improvement. AN is associated with reward processing dysfunctions paralleling those identified in affective disorders; however, few treatments directly target these processes. Method: We adapted Positive Affect Treatment, a neuroscience-informed behavioral treatment developed for affective disorders, to the treatment of AN (PAT-AN). Adults with AN (N = 20) were randomized to 20 weeks of PAT-AN or waitlist to investigate the feasibility, acceptability, preliminary efficacy, and target engagement (on reward mechanisms) of PAT-AN. Results: PAT-AN demonstrated strong retention (100%) and acceptability ratings (M = 5.67–5.95 on a 7-point scale). BMI (p =.006) and eating disorder symptoms (p <.001) improved over PAT-AN sessions. The PAT-AN group showed medium to large pre-to-post-treatment improvements in BMI, eating disorder symptoms and impairment, depressive and anxiety symptoms, and some reward indices (ds =.56–.87); changes were largely sustained at 3-month follow-up. Waitlist showed negligible changes (ds <.20) on nearly all measures. Discussion: PAT-AN holds promise as an innovative treatment with capability to simultaneously improve eating disorder symptoms, affective symptoms, and underlying reward mechanisms. Findings should be interpreted cautiously due to small sample size and permitted concurrent enrollment in other treatments. Future, larger-scale research is warranted to establish the efficacy of PAT-AN. Public Significance: This study provided a preliminary evaluation of Positive Affect Treatment for anorexia nervosa (PAT-AN), a novel, neuroscience-informed treatment aimed at increasing rewarding life experiences outside of one's eating disorder. Initial results suggest that PAT-AN is considered acceptable and may alleviate eating disorder, depressive, and anxiety symptoms. Therefore, this study presents promising data on a treatment that may hold potential for improving the lives of individuals with this disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1253-1259
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • anorexia nervosa
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • positive affect
  • reward
  • treatment

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Randomized Controlled Trial


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