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Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2012 Nov;20(6):476-83. doi: 10.1002/erv.1157. Epub 2011 Sep 22.

An experimental investigation of verbal expression of emotion in anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

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  • 1King's College, Division of Psychological Medicine and Psychiatry, Section of Eating Disorders, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK.



This study aims to use an experimental design to investigate verbal expression of emotion in anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN).


Forty-two patients with AN, 26 patients with BN and 34 healthy controls (HCs) were videoed talking about discrete emotional experiences. Talks were analysed using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count. Participants also completed the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ).


People with AN used fewer words when describing their emotional experiences and fewer positive affect words than HCs. People with BN were indistinguishable from HCs. Both ED groups had higher scores on the suppression subscale of the ERQ compared with HCs. Suppression was negatively correlated with negative verbal expression.


This study highlights differences between AN and BN in emotion expression. It supports a model of AN, which highlights emotion inhibition as a maintaining factor of the illness. Methods of emotion regulation in EDs may contribute to increased negative mood and poorer social functioning.

Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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