Attentional Bias, Emotion Recognition, and Emotion Regulation in Anorexia: State or Trait?


      Anorexia nervosa (AN) is associated with difficulties in emotion recognition and regulation and with attentional biases to social affective stimuli. This study aimed to examine these factors in a group of women following long-term recovery from AN.


      The Reading the Mind in the Eyes task, Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale, and a computerized pictorial Stroop task (angry and neutral faces) were administered to 175 women: 50 with acute AN, 35 recovered from AN, and 90 healthy control subjects (HCs).


      The recovered group had a significantly higher social and angry-threat attentional bias than HCs, with medium effect sizes, and significantly lower scores on the emotion recognition measure than HCs, with a medium effect size. On the other hand, the recovered group did not significantly differ from the HC group in terms of emotion regulation.


      Attentional biases to social affective pictorial stimuli and difficulties with emotion recognition appear to be traits associated with a lifetime history of AN, whereas emotion regulation difficulties appear to remit when the individual successfully recovers from the illness.

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