Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Eat Behav. 2007 Jan;8(1):91-7. Epub 2006 Mar 6.

Distress tolerance in the eating disorders.

Author information

  • 1Outpatient Eating Disorders Service, South West London and St. George's Mental Health NHS Trust, Harewood House, Springfield University Hospital, London SW17 7DJ, UK.



It is commonly noted that patients with eating disorders have difficulties in regulating emotional states. This construct is similar to the concept of distress tolerance, which has been identified as a problem in patients with impulsive disorders. However, the elements that make up distress tolerance are not clearly delineated, making it difficult to target treatment in relevant cases. This study aimed to develop a measure of distress tolerance, and to validate it clinically with the eating disorders.


The sample consisted of 72 women with DSM-IV eating disorder diagnoses, and 62 women with no history of eating disorders. Each completed a newly developed measure of distress tolerance (the Distress Tolerance Scale; DTS) and the Eating Disorders Inventory.


The DTS was made up of three scales, each with acceptable psychometric properties. Two of those scales differentiated the groups--the clinical women showed higher levels of 'Avoidance of affect', while the non-clinical women had higher scores in the 'Accept and manage' scale. Avoidance of affect was positively associated with unhealthy eating attitudes.


It is important to examine both maladaptive and adaptive means of coping with affect in the eating disorders. Treatment strategies for modification of distress tolerance should address both the reduction of avoidance and the development of emotional management skills. Further research is needed to determine whether these findings are relevant to the presence of other impulsive behaviours in the eating disorders.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk