Do adolescent anorexia nervosa patients have deficits in emotional functioning?
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Adult eating disorder patients have been characterised by alexithymia. We investigated whether adolescent eating disorder patients also show deficits in emotional functioning. To measure emotional functioning a questionnaire (the TAS) and an emotion recognition test were administered to 30 eating disorder (ED) adolescent girls and 31 healthy controls (HC), matched for age, education, and social status. Non-emotional, cognitive parallel tasks were administered on the same occasion to find out whether a possible deficit was emotion-specific or of a more general cognitive nature. The ED patients scored higher on the TAS and performed worse on the emotion recognition test, but no differences between the groups were found on the non-emotional cognitive instruments. It was concluded that adolescent eating disorder patients, just like adult eating disorder patients, are characterised by alexithymia and show specific deficits in emotional functioning. The implications of these findings are discussed.
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