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Eat Weight Disord. 2019 Aug 31. doi: 10.1007/s40519-019-00767-9. [Epub ahead of print]

Emotion and overeating behavior: effects of alexithymia and emotional regulation on overweight and obesity.

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Dipartimento di Psicologia Dinamica e Clinica, Università di Roma "Sapienza", Via degli Apuli, 1, 00185, Rome, Italy.
Dipartimento di Psicologia, Università di Roma "Sapienza", Via dei Marsi, 78, 00185, Rome, Italy.



Obesity and overweight are significant risk factors for many serious diseases. Several studies have investigated the relationship between emotional regulation and overweight or obesity in people with eating disorders. Although a few studies have explored alexithymia in individuals with severe obesity without eating disorders, no attention has been paid to individuals with overweight and preclinical form of obesity. This study aims to assess whether overweight and obesity are related to emotional dysregulation and alexithymia.


The study involved 111 undergraduate students who had not been diagnosed with an eating disorder. The sample was divided into two groups according to their body mass index (BMI): normal weight (N = 55) and overweight (N = 56). All of them completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), the Emotional Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ), and the Eating Disorder Inventory-2 (EDI-2).


Results showed higher levels of alexithymia, and specifically higher difficulty in identifying feelings and an externally oriented thought, in participants with overweight. Multiple correlation analysis highlighted the positive relations between some EDI-2 subscales and both alexithymia and emotional regulation scores. Linear regressions revealed a significant relationship between body BMI and both alexithymia and emotional regulation strategies.


The condition of overweight/obesity seems to be associated with higher emotional dysregulation compared to normal weight condition. It is essential to study this relationship because it could represent a risk factor for the worsening of problems related to overeating and excessive body weight. These findings suggest that an integrated approach aimed at considering the promotion of emotional regulation could contribute to the effectiveness of a program designed to reduce overweight and obesity.


Level III: case-control analytic study.


Alexithymia; Emotional regulation; Obesity; Overeating; Overweight


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