Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 890–904 | Cite as

Anxiety and Social-Emotional Processing in Eating Disorders: Examination of Family Trios

Original Article


Anxiety, altered attention for social stimuli and poor recognition of emotions were examined as putative intermediate phenotypes of eating disorders (EDs). Three hundred and forty two participants (65 ED offspring; 52 healthy offspring; 124 parents of ED offspring; 101 parents of healthy offspring) completed self report and behavioural measures of anxiety, attention for social stimuli and emotion recognition. ED offspring and their parents had higher trait anxiety in comparison to healthy controls. Social anxiety co-segregated with the illness in parents. ED offspring did not show Stroop interference for social stimuli. Subtle alterations in response to social stimuli were observed in ED fathers. ED groups did not have difficulties recognising complex emotions. In conclusion, trait and social anxiety fulfil some of the criteria for intermediate phenotypes in EDs. There was less evidence for behavioural measures of anxiety and social processing. This may be a consequence of sample characteristics, low power or task sensitivity.


Eating disorders Anxiety Attentional bias Emotion Relatives Intermediate phenotypes 



This article presents independent research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Programme Grants for Applied Research scheme (RP-PG-0606-1043). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

Conflict of interest



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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychological Medicine, King’s College LondonInstitute of PsychiatryLondonUK

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