Cognitions and their Origins in Women with Anorexia Nervosa, Non-Symptomatic Dieters and Female Controls

Turner, Hannah (1999). Cognitions and their Origins in Women with Anorexia Nervosa, Non-Symptomatic Dieters and Female Controls. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f723

Abstract

Despite the steady rise in reported cases of anorexia nervosa amongst young women, investigation into cognitive processes associated with this complex phenomenon remains in its infancy. The aim of this study was to develop a semi-structured interview to assess cognitions and their origins in patients with anorexia nervosa, non-symptomatic dieters and female controls. Potential group differences in the meaning attached to dieting were also explored. Results indicated that when discussing eating related concerns, clinical participants reported more characteristically unique eating related thoughts than non-clinical participants, differences becoming less evident when discussing concerns about weight and shape. Clinical participants also reported more assumptions related to eating, and weight and shape as a means to acceptance by self and others, and control over eating than non-clinical participants, similar differences being reported in degree of belief and associated distress.

Clinical participants identified more negative self-beliefs than non-clinical participants, similar differences being reported in degree of rational and emotional belief, and associated distress. All patients with anorexia nervosa identified an association between negative early experiences and negative self-beliefs, and a large percentage also identified an association between negative early experiences and second order assumptions. All clinical participants also reported a link between negative self-beliefs and dieting. Following a discussion of the results it is concluded that although the present study highlights subtle group differences in cognitions, it also gives prominence to an array of avenues that require further investigation if our understanding of anorexia nervosa is to be refined and more effective treatments developed.

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