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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Goddard, E., Treasure, J. Anxiety and Social-Emotional Processing in Eating Disorders: Examination of Family Trios. Cogn Ther Res 37, 890–904 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-013-9535-2

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Keywords

  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Attentional bias
  • Emotion
  • Relatives
  • Intermediate phenotypes