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Eat Behav. 2003 Sep;4(3):221-8.

Socially driven eating and restriction in the eating disorders.

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Eating Disorders Service, South West London and St. George's Mental Health NHS Trust, London, UK.


The aims of this study were: to develop a measure to examine the relationship between socially driven eating and specific eating behaviours; to examine whether different social situations increase or decrease eating in different diagnostic groups; and to determine whether dimensional links exist between responses to social triggers and different aspects of eating pathology. A clinical group of 107 eating-disordered women and 143 nonclinical women completed a measure of socially driven eating and restriction (the Social Eating Scale, or SES) and the Eating Disorders Inventory. The SES had good psychometric properties. Patients with binge-eating disorder (BED) ate more in all social situations, while those with anorexia nervosa ate less. In contrast, bulimia nervosa (BN) patients ate more in general social situations but less in situations where the social trigger was related to food, shape, or weight. There were consistent dimensional links between responses to social triggers and different aspects of eating pathology. These findings support the recent literature on social triggers of eating behaviours but stress the relevance of the mixed pathology of women with BN. The role of social triggers for eating might help to explain the effectiveness of interpersonal psychotherapy when applied to the eating disorders.

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