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Int J Psychiatry Med. 2012;44(1):53-62.

Temporal relationships of emotional avoidance in a patient with anorexia nervosa--a time series analysis.

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  • 1Medical University Hospital Heidelberg, Germany.



Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder marked by self-induced underweight. In patients with AN, the avoidance of emotions appears to be a central feature that is reinforced during the acute state of the disorder. This single case study investigated the role of emotional avoidance of a 25-year-old patient with AN during her inpatient treatment.


Throughout the course of 96 days, the patient answered questions daily about her emotional avoidance, pro-anorectic beliefs, perfectionism, and further variables on an electronic diary. The patient's daily self-assessment of emotional avoidance was described in terms of mean value, range, and variability for the various treatment phases. Temporal relationships between emotional avoidance and further variables were determined using a time series approach (vector autoregressive (VAR) modelling).


Diary data reflect that the patient's ability to tolerate unpleasant emotions appeared to undergo a process of change during inpatient treatment. Results of the time series analysis indicate that the more the patient was able to deal with negative emotions on any one day (t-1), the less she would be socially avoidant, cognitively confined to food and eating, as well as feeling less secure with her AN, and less depressive on the following day (t).


The findings show that for this patient emotional avoidance plays a central role in the interacting system of various psychosocial variables. Replication of these results in other patients with AN would support the recommendation to focus more on emotional regulation in the treatment of AN.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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