Attentional bias, emotion recognition, and emotion regulation in anorexia: state or trait?

Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Oct 15;68(8):755-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.04.037. Epub 2010 Jun 29.


Background: 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.

Methods: 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).

Results: 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.

Conclusions: 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / complications
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology*
  • Anorexia / complications
  • Anorexia / psychology*
  • Attention*
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Recognition, Psychology