Biases in emotional processing are associated with vulnerability to eating disorders over time.
Pringle A., Harmer CJ., Cooper MJ.
Biases in emotional processing are thought to play a role in the maintenance of eating disorders (EDs). In a previous study (Pringle et al., 2010), we were able to demonstrate that biases in the processing of negative self beliefs (a self-schema processing task), facial expressions of emotion (a facial expression recognition task) and information relating to eating, shape and weight (an emotional Stroop) were all predictive of the level of subclinical ED symptoms (used here as a measure of risk) cross-sectionally in a vulnerable sample of dieters. The present study was a 12-month follow up of the participants from Pringle et al. (2010). Longitudinally, greater endorsement of ED relevant and depression relevant negative self beliefs in the self-schema processing task at time 1 was related to subclinical ED systems (level of risk) 12 months later at time 2. Compared to the cross-sectional study, there was no clear relationship between performance on the facial expression recognition task, emotional Stroop task and level of risk 12 months later. Although these findings are preliminary, one tentative interpretation may be that whilst biases in the processing of ED specific stimuli are predictive of level of risk at a given moment, over time less specific stimuli relating to beliefs about the self, including mood related variables, are more closely related to level of risk.