It has been hypothesized that restrictive eating allows individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) to avoid contact with negative emotions; however, this presumption has not been directly tested. In this study, we conducted an initial investigation examining whether restrictive eating serves an emotional avoidance function among individuals with AN. Females with AN (n=118) reported on negative and positive affect, anxiety/tension, and eating behaviors at multiple time points daily over a 2-week period using ecological momentary assessment methodology. Affective patterns were compared using generalized estimating equation models between days in which participants reported either: (1) relatively high restriction (without binge eating); (2) relatively low restriction (without binge eating); (3) binge eating; or (4) no restriction or binge eating. We hypothesized that, if restriction were functioning to avoid negative affect, average negative affect and anxiety/tension, as well as average negative and positive affect lability, would be lower and average positive affect would be higher on days characterized by high levels of restriction compared to other eating patterns. Contrary to hypotheses: (1) average negative affect, anxiety/tension, and positive affect were not significantly different between days characterized by high restriction and those characterized by low or no restriction; (2) Negative affect and anxiety/tension lability were higher on days characterized by high restriction compared to no restriction or binge eating days; (3) Anxiety/tension lability was higher on days characterized by high versus low levels of restriction. This patterns of findings does not support an avoidance model of restrictive eating for individuals with AN.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health, under Awards Numbered F31MH097450 (PI: Haynos) and R01 MH059674 (PI: Wonderlich), provided financial support for the conduct of the research and preparation of this article. The sponsor had no involvement in study design; the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication.
This publication was supported in part by a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Individual Fellowship awarded to the first author (A. Haynos) by the National Institute of Mental Health under Award Number F31MH097450. Funding for this research was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health ( R01 MH059674 ; Wonderlich). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.
- Anorexia nervosa
- Emotion regulation
- Restrictive eating