Stress plays a role in the association between cognitive constructs and measures of eating disorders in male subjects


Objective: Several theorists have hypothesized that stressful situations may trigger abnormal eating and even eating disorders in predisposed people. The purpose of this study was to assess whether a stressful situation would reveal an association between perfectionism and low self-esteem, and measures of eating disorder symptoms in male high school students. Method: A sample of 61 male high school students completed the Eating Disorder Inventory, the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, and the Self Liking and Competence Scale three times: on an average school day, on the day of an exam and on the day the subjects received the results of that exam. Linear regression analysis was carried out to verify whether the dimensions of perfectionism were associated with the measures of eating disorders. Results: Interoceptive awareness was associated with ‘Bulimia’ only during the stressful situation and with ‘Drive for thinness’ both in stress and non stress situations. Other results were contradictory and difficult to interpret. Discussion: The results suggest that in nonclinical male individuals stress might bring out a previously absent association between some psychological predisposing factors for eating disorders and an actual desire or plan for ED related thoughts and behaviours. Such a finding suggests that stress may stimulate behaviours related to eating disorders in a predisposed personality. A central role may be played by interoceptive awareness in male subjects.

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Correspondence to Dr. G. M. Ruggiero.

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Sassaroli, S., Mezzaluna, C., Amurri, A. et al. Stress plays a role in the association between cognitive constructs and measures of eating disorders in male subjects. Eat Weight Disord 10, 117–124 (2005).

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Key words

  • Interoceptive awareness
  • cognitive constructs
  • stress
  • bulimia