Emotional processing in women with anorexia nervosa and in healthy volunteers.
Jänsch C., Harmer C., Cooper MJ.
Emotional processing was investigated in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) and in healthy volunteers (HVs) using self report questionnaires and information processing tasks. Compared to the HVs, patients with AN had lower levels of self reported emotional awareness and expression. They also responded more slowly to, correctly identified fewer emotions and misclassified more emotions in a facial recognition task, and responded more slowly to, and recalled fewer, self-referent emotion words. There were no key differences between the two groups on non-emotional control tasks, suggesting that their deficits are specific to emotional information and not a general feature of the illness. Analysis indicated that some, but not all, of the differences found remained when depressive symptoms were taken into account. Exploratory analysis of sub-groups (medicated vs. unmedicated patients) indicated that those who were on medication may perform very differently from those who were not on medication, including when level of depression is controlled, although it is important to emphasise that these findings are preliminary. The implications of a deficit in emotional processing in those with AN, including discussion of the specific differences found between medicated and unmedicated, are discussed in relation to previous findings in the area. A number of implications for future research, theory and therapy with those with AN are discussed.