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|Title: ||Attention, emotion processing and eating-related psychopathology|
|Authors: ||Sharpe, Emma|
|Keywords: ||Attentional bias|
|Issue Date: ||2016|
|Publisher: ||© Emma Sharpe|
|Abstract: ||The work within this thesis examined aspects of emotion processing among non-clinical females who varied in levels of eating-related psychopathology. Five studies employed a quantitative approach in order to assess potential deficits in both the control and experience of emotion. To examine the experience of emotion, Studies 1, 2 and 3 assessed the attentional processing of emotional stimuli in those with high and low levels of eating-related psychopathology. In Studies 1 and 2, specific components of attention bias including orientation, disengagement and avoidance were assessed in order to explore their role in contributing to disordered eating behaviour. Findings from these studies did not reveal any differences in attentional orienting between those with high and low levels of eating-related psychopathology. However, when primed with happy faces, those with high levels of disordered eating were significantly quicker than those with low levels to disengage from threat-relevant words. This finding could be interpreted in terms of emotional arousal with happy facial displays providing a protective function against subsequently presented stimuli. With regards to emotional avoidance, those with higher levels of eating-related psychopathology were more likely to avoid emotional displays relative to those with lower levels. In fact, a higher drive to achieve thinness was shown to predict a greater avoidance of both angry and happy facial expressions. Interestingly, depression, anxiety and alexithymia were all shown to impact upon attentional processing. In Study 3, the efficacy of attention training in reducing attentional biases towards threat in women with varying levels of disordered eating was examined. Importantly, a single session of attention training was found to be successful in modifying previously observed attentional biases towards threat. However, eating-related psychopathology was shown to have only a partial influence on participants attention processing. These findings suggest that the success of attention training may be independent of disordered eating.
To examine the control of emotion within a non-clinical population, Study 4 utilised self-report questionnaires to explore associations between deficits in emotional functioning and severity of eating-related psychopathology. The data obtained from this questionnaire-based investigation are reported in a series of three short studies. Specifically, Study 4.1 of this chapter examined the relationship between difficulties in the regulation of emotion within eating-related psychopathology. Furthermore, Studies 4.2 and 4.3 set out to explore some of the factors which may influence emotion processing, such as pessimistic attitudes regarding emotional expression. Across all studies, the role of depression, anxiety and alexithymia as potential confounding factors was considered. Findings revealed a significant relationship between eating-related psychopathology and difficulties regulating emotion. Dysfunctional or negative attitudes towards the expression of emotion were also linked to a greater number of eating disorder-related concerns and behaviours. However, many of the associations between eating-related psychopathology and impaired emotional functioning were no longer apparent when depression, anxiety and alexithymia had been statistically accounted for. These findings not only support previous research, but highlight the importance of mood and alexithymia in contributing to the emotional deficits observed.
Finally, Study 5 aimed to explore the potential consequences of inadequate emotion processing within eating-related psychopathology. Self-report measures were utilised to assess the frequency of eating-related intrusive thoughts in those with high levels of eating-related psychopathology. As predicted, those with greater levels of disordered eating reported experiencing a higher frequency of thoughts or intrusions relating to eating. This may point towards a failure to successfully process emotional experience in this group.
Taken together, this body of work enhances the current understanding of the role of emotion processing in contributing to both the onset and maintenance of disordered eating. These findings also emphasise the key role of mood and alexithymia in influencing the relationship between emotional functioning and eating-related psychopathology. Therefore further research examining emotion processing within disordered eating must acknowledge the potential contribution of depression, anxiety and alexithymia. Furthermore, the present findings provide clear support for the development of a model of cognitive-emotion processing within eating-related psychopathology. The implications of these findings for both eating disorder treatment and prevention are discussed. Possible directions for future research are also identified.|
|Description: ||A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.|
|Sponsor: ||Loughborough University PhD Studentship|
|Appears in Collections:||PhD Theses (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences)|
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