Drive for activity in patients with anorexia nervosa

Int J Eat Disord. 2015 Jan;48(1):42-5. doi: 10.1002/eat.22272. Epub 2014 Mar 29.


Objective: Hyperactivity and elevated physical activity are both considered symptom characteristics of anorexia nervosa (AN). It has been suggested that a drive for activity (DFA) may underlie these expressions, yet research into DFA in AN remains scant. This study investigated DFA levels in patients with AN and its relation to AN severity. Furthermore, as physical exercise may be a way to reduce negative affect, the influence of negative affect (anxiety) on the role of DFA in AN was tested.

Method: Two hundred and forty female patients with AN completed measures for DFA, eating disorder (ED) pathology, anxiety, and clinical parameters.

Results: A strong relation between DFA levels and ED pathology was found, which remained significant even after controlling for negative affect (anxiety).

Discussion: After much theorizing about DFA in AN this study provides empirical evidence for DFA as a hallmark feature of AN, independent of anxiety levels. Future research should shed light on the relationships between DFA, actual physical activity, and the course of AN.

Keywords: anorexia nervosa; anxiety; drive for activity; eating disorders; negative affect.

MeSH terms

  • Actigraphy
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Drive*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult