Dimensions of emotion dysregulation in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: A conceptual review of the empirical literature

Clin Psychol Rev. 2015 Aug;40:111-22. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2015.05.010. Epub 2015 Jun 6.


Several existing conceptual models and psychological interventions address or emphasize the role of emotion dysregulation in eating disorders. The current article uses Gratz and Roemer's (2004) multidimensional model of emotion regulation and dysregulation as a clinically relevant framework to review the extant literature on emotion dysregulation in anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). Specifically, the dimensions reviewed include: (1) the flexible use of adaptive and situationally appropriate strategies to modulate the duration and/or intensity of emotional responses, (2) the ability to successfully inhibit impulsive behavior and maintain goal-directed behavior in the context of emotional distress, (3) awareness, clarity, and acceptance of emotional states, and (4) the willingness to experience emotional distress in the pursuit of meaningful activities. The current review suggests that both AN and BN are characterized by broad emotion regulation deficits, with difficulties in emotion regulation across the four dimensions found to characterize both AN and BN, although a small number of more specific difficulties may distinguish the two disorders. The review concludes with a discussion of the clinical implications of the findings, as well as a summary of limitations of the existing empirical literature and suggestions for future research.

Keywords: Affect; Affect dysregulation; Affect regulation; Eating disorders; Emotion regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia Nervosa / physiopathology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Bulimia Nervosa / physiopathology*
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Self-Control / psychology*