Current Psychiatry Reports

, 20:67 | Cite as

Network Analysis as an Alternative Approach to Conceptualizing Eating Disorders: Implications for Research and Treatment

  • Cheri A. Levinson
  • Irina A. Vanzhula
  • Leigh C. Brosof
  • Kelsie Forbush
Eating Disorders (S Wonderlich and J M Lavender, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Eating Disorders


Purpose of Review

Network analysis (NA) is an emerging methodology that allows for the characterization of maintaining symptoms and pathways among symptoms of mental disorders. The current paper provides background on NA and discusses the relevance of the network approach for the conceptualization of eating disorders (ED).

Recent Findings

We review the burgeoning literature conceptualizing ED from a network approach. Overall, these papers find that fear of weight gain and overvaluation of weight and shape are core symptoms in networks of ED pathology. We integrate literature on new advances in network methodology (e.g., within-person NA) and the clinical relevance of these approaches for the ED field (e.g., personalized ED treatment). We also provide several considerations (e.g., replicability, sample size, and node (item) selection) for researchers who are interested in using network science and recommend several emerging “best practices” for NA.


Finally, we highlight novel applications of NA, specifically the ability to identify within-person maintaining symptoms, and the potential treatment implications for ED that network methods may hold. Overall, NA is a new methodology that holds significant promise for new treatment development in the ED field.


Eating disorders Network analysis Fear of weight gain Anorexia nervosa Bulimia nervosa 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Cheri A. Levinson, Irina A. Vanzhula, Leigh C. Brosof, and Kelsie Forbush declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cheri A. Levinson
    • 1
  • Irina A. Vanzhula
    • 1
  • Leigh C. Brosof
    • 1
  • Kelsie Forbush
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychological & Brain SciencesUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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