Article

Anxiety and eating disorders: Understanding the overlap

Sub-Department of Clinical Health Psychology, University College London, London, UK.
Clinical Psychology Review (Impact Factor: 7.18). 04/2008; 28(3):366-86. DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2007.07.001
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This paper reviews research investigating the comorbidity between eating disorders and anxiety disorders. Whilst there is some inconsistency in the literature, it appears that women with eating disorders have higher rates of anxiety disorders than normal controls. Potential causal relationships between eating disorders and anxiety disorders are outlined, though their relative chronology appears to be somewhat inconsistent. Safety behaviours and cognitive avoidance strategies (i.e., cognitive narrowing and blocking) are suggested as potential mechanisms linking the disorders. A model outlining this hypothesised relationship is developed throughout the review. It is suggested that eating disorders and anxiety disorders might share common aetiological factors, and that these factors can increase an individual's susceptibility to either disorder. Potential implications for the treatment of eating disorders are outlined, and suggestions are made for further research.

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Available from: Glenn Waller, Jan 09, 2014
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    • "Previous research has highlighted that environmental stresses contribute to the development of eating disorders. Godart et al. (2003); Pallister & Waller (2008) and Polivy & Herman (2002) conclude that eating-disordered women manifest higher rates of anxiety disorders. While some researchers argue that anxiety occurs in succession to eating disorders (See Pallister & Waller (2008) for review), others contend (See Swinbourne & Touyz (2007) for review) that increased levels of anxiety may contribute to the development of eating disorders in some women. "
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    • "This may produce a heightened susceptibility to experiencing symptoms of mental health problems (e.g., anxiety and depression) in the children of controlling parents. The associations between symptoms of anxiety, depression and disordered eating behaviours have been well-documented, as clinically the symptomology of these disorders often co-occur in both adults (e.g., Mischoulon et al., 2011; Pallister & Waller, 2008; Swinbourne & Touyz, 2007) and adolescents/children (e.g., Stice, Burton, & Shaw, 2004; Touchette et al., 2011). Given the discussed relationships between controlling parental feeding practices and children's over-and undereating behaviours, and the relationships between controlling parenting and children's anxiety and depression symptomology, it is plausible that anxiety and depression may mediate the relationship between parental controlling feeding practices and children's eating behaviours. "
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    • "In terms of other mediating factors of the relationship between perfectionism and eating disorders it would be useful to also investigate other transdiagnostic processes. Pallister and Waller (2008) propose a model to explain the relationship between anxiety and eating disorders, and state these disorders may share common transdiagnostic etiological factors. They included concepts such as 'cognitive narrowing' as proposed by Heatherton and Baumeister (1991) where binge eating is proposed as a way to reduce negative affect, as individuals with eating disorders have such high standards (i.e., perfectionism). "
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