A preliminary investigation of a novel training to target cognitive biases towards negative social stimuli in Anorexia Nervosa.
Cardi V., Esposito M., Bird G., Rhind C., Yiend J., Schifano S., Hirsch C., Treasure J.
BACKGROUND: Patients with Anorexia Nervosa (AN) experience high levels of social difficulties and anxiety. These problems might be underpinned by negatively biased processing of social stimuli. The aim of this study was to examine the feasibility of using a novel Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) training to target information processing biases in patients with AN. METHODS: Twenty-eight patients with AN completed a baseline and end of intervention assessment of mood and social appraisals. The CBM training consisted of 5 sessions and included an attentional probe task to train attention towards positive social stimuli and an ambiguous scenarios task to train benign or neutral interpretations of ambiguous social scenarios. RESULTS: At baseline patients displayed an attention and interpretation bias towards negative social stimuli. At the end of intervention there was a medium sized increase in attention to positive faces and fewer negative interpretations of ambiguous social stimuli. There were also lower levels of anxiety and higher levels of self-compassion in response to a judgemental video clip. LIMITATIONS: The lack of a control group is the main limitation to this preliminary study as the changes obtained may have resulted from non-specific aspects of the inpatient treatment. CONCLUSIONS: A novel CBM training is associated with more positive processing of social information in AN. It would be of interest to test the hypothesis that reducing cognitive biases towards social stimuli impacts on wider features of an eating disorder.