An Empirical Investigation of Eating Disorders and Difficulties Regulating Emotion: Do Difficulties Vary Based on Symptom Profiles?
Eating disorders pose a serious threat to the physical and mental health of those who suffer from them. Given the impact of these disorders and difficulty treating them, it is important to understand the nature of them and factors involved in their development and maintenance. The empirical investigation of eating disorders is made difficult by the extreme heterogeneity seen within current DSM-IV diagnostic categories. Research on emotion regulation in eating disorders is rising, yet scant in terms of identifying specific difficulties and points of intervention. The proposed study focused on the construct of emotion regulation and its relation to the eating disorders by: (1) empirically identifying groups of eating disorder participants based on symptoms and (2) examining specific difficulties in emotion regulation capacities in each of the identified groups of eating disorder participants and (3) identifying whether difficulties in emotion regulation contribute to eating disorder symptom severity. A clinical sample of individuals with eating disorders was classified into subgroups based on symptom frequency using latent profile analysis. The most parsimonious and best fitting model was a four-profile solution which resulted in four distinct subgroups. Profile 1 consisted of individuals who endorsed moderate restriction and occasional binge eating and vomiting, all at a subclinical level. Profiles 2, 3, and 4 all met criteria for bulimia nervosa and consisted of individuals who engaged in restriction, binge eating, and purging though in varying degrees. When these groups were compared to a sample of college aged healthy control participants using multivariate analysis of variance, results indicate that individuals in profile 1, which comprised 71% of the sample, experience greater difficulty with emotion regulation in the areas of awareness, nonacceptance, and perceived access to strategies to help them feel better. Results of three hierarchical regression analyses showed that difficulties in emotion regulation did not significantly contribute to symptom severity as anticipated..
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