Research Topic

Psychosocial Risk Factors in the Development and Maintenance of Eating Disorders

About this Research Topic

Eating disorders (EDs) are mental disorders characterized by altered eating habits and excessive concern about weight and body shape. They arise mainly during adolescence and predominantly affect females. The three most common types of EDs are, in brief:

• Anorexia nervosa (AN), characterized by an ...

Eating disorders (EDs) are mental disorders characterized by altered eating habits and excessive concern about weight and body shape. They arise mainly during adolescence and predominantly affect females. The three most common types of EDs are, in brief:

• Anorexia nervosa (AN), characterized by an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight;
• Bulimia nervosa (BN), characterized by repeated binge eating followed by behaviors that compensate for the overeating, such as forced vomiting, excessive exercise, or extreme use of laxatives, enemas or diuretics;
• Binge eating disorder (BED), characterized by the presence of bulimic episodes without the use of compensation and/or elimination behaviors for weight control.

Currently, researchers and clinicians agree that the multifactorial model is the most suitable for explaining the onset of EDs, instead of a single cause. For BED patients, one risk factor may be lower parental care as it may trigger greater confusion and uncertainty in responding to unpleasant emotional experiences. This contributes to an impaired personality development, more severe psychopathological symptomatology, and greater difficulty in both identifying and distinguishing feelings of hunger and satiety from other emotions. Attachment styles have also been explored in patients with EDs. According to attachment theory, attachment insecurity could disrupt the ability to identify and express emotional states and might impair affect regulation skills (i.e. emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, perfectionism). Within the two main dimensions of attachment insecurity (i.e., attachment anxiety and avoidance), higher attachment anxiety is related to greater symptom severity in patients with AN and BN. Further, studies have examined impaired emotional competences (ECs), theory of mind (ToM) and metacognition, which refer to how individuals identify, express, understand, regulate, and use their emotions or those of others. These skills may also explain why attachment insecurity places individuals at greater risk of EDs. Although particular personality traits (i.e. impulsivity, perfectionism, self-esteem), attachment styles, trauma, and metacognition clearly play a role in the onset and maintenance of EDs, little is known about their associations and underlying mechanisms.

The aim of this Research Topic is therefore to deepen our understanding about how individual psychological characteristics can influence EDs, often worsening the clinical course and generating ineffective treatments. To achieve this purpose, this Research Topic welcomes Original Research, Review, Hypothesis and Theory, Perspective, Brief Research Report, Commentaries, and Opinion articles which address the following subtopics:

• Examining the role of personality traits on ED onset, progression and outcome;
• Investigating psychological and environmental factors during childhood or adolescence (i.e. attachment, trauma) which may be a precursor of EDs;
• Examining the role of specific personality dimensions (i.e. emotional dysregulation) in developing or exacerbating EDs;
• Exploring the efficacy of different personality-based psychological interventions for EDs;
• Comparing different models of personality and EDs.

The overarching goal of this Research Topic is to bring together clinicians and researchers from different clinical settings to promote discussion between different models of personality and psychopathology in the field of EDs.


Image provided by Matteo Aloi.


Keywords: eating disorders, personality, attachment, metacognition, trauma


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Submission Deadlines

31 March 2021 Manuscript

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Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 March 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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