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Eat Weight Disord. 2014 Jun;19(2):209-16. doi: 10.1007/s40519-014-0101-z. Epub 2014 Jan 29.

Anorexia nervosa and its relation to depression, anxiety, alexithymia and emotional processing deficits.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Ulm, Oberer Eselsberg 45, 89081, Ulm, Germany.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Psychopathological changes and dysfunction in emotion processing have been described for anorexia nervosa (AN). Yet, findings are applicable to adult patients only. Furthermore, potential for discriminative power in clinical practice in relation to clinical parameters has to be discussed. The aim of this study was to investigate psychopathology and emotional face processing in adolescent female patients with AN.

METHODS:

In a sample of 15 adolescent female patients with AN (16.2 years, SD ± 1.26) and 15 age and sex matched controls we assessed alexithymia, depression, anxiety and empathy in addition to emotion labelling and social information processing.

RESULTS:

AN patients had significantly higher alexithymia, higher levels of depression, and state and trait anxiety compared to controls. There was a trend for a lower ability to recognize disgust. Happiness as a positive emotion was recognized better. All facial expressions were recognized significantly faster by AN patients. Associations of pathological eating behaviour and trait anxiety were seen.

CONCLUSION:

In accordance with the stress reduction hypothesis, typical psychopathology of alexithymia, anxiety and depression is prevalent in female adolescent AN patients. It is present detached from physical stability. Pathogenesis of AN is multifactorial and already fully present in adolescence. An additional reinforcement process can be discussed. For clinical practice, those parameters might have a better potential for early prognostic factors related to AN than physical parameters and possible implication for intervention is given.

PMID:
24474662
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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