Self‐focused attention in anorexia nervosa

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APA Citation: 

Zucker, N., Wagner, H. R., Merwin, R., Bulik, C. M., Moskovich, A., Keeling, L., & Hoyle, R. (2015). Self‐focused attention in anorexia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 48(1), 9-14.

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Empirical
Behavior Analysis: Empirical
Publication Type: 
Article
Language: 
English
Keyword(s): 
anorexia nervosa;eating disorders;social cognition;social perception;attention;executive functioning;self-focused attention
Abstract: 

Objective
The clinical presentation of anorexia nervosa (AN) is characterized by preoccupation with body experience, intrusive concerns regarding shape, and pathological fears of weight gain. These symptoms are suggestive of unrelenting self-focused attention. No research to date has characterized self-focused attention (SFA) in AN nor examined neurocognitive features that may facilitate an excessive, rigid, or sustained focus on one's appearance.

Method
This study examined SFA, body image disturbance, and executive functioning in women with current anorexia nervosa (AN-C; n = 24), a history of AN who were weight-restored at the time of the study (WR; n = 19), and healthy controls (n = 24).

Results
Private and public SFA were highest among WR and lowest among AN-C. Shape concerns were negatively correlated with SFA, especially among AN-C, after controlling for depression and social anxiety symptoms.

Discussion
Lower levels of SFA among AN-C were unexpected and suggest the acute state of AN may lessen pathological self-focus, negatively reinforcing symptoms. In addition, body image concerns may distract from general SFA. Deficits in executive attention may explain these findings, as each one unit increase in perseverative errors among AN-C participants was associated with an almost one-half unit decrease in public SFA.

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