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The Longitudinal Relationship Between Worry and Disordered Eating: Is Worry a Precursor or Consequence of Disordered Eating?

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The Longitudinal Relationship Between Worry and Disordered Eating: Is Worry a Precursor or Consequence of Disordered Eating?

Margarita Sala et al. Eat Behav.

Abstract

Worry, the core component of generalized anxiety disorder, is associated with disordered eating. However, it is unclear whether worry is a precursor to disordered eating or whether worry is a consequence of disordered eating (or both). The current study tested if worry prospectively predicted disordered eating symptoms and vice-versa across six months. Young adult women (n=300) completed a measure of worry and disordered eating at Time 1, and two months and six months later. A prospective path model utilizing structural equation modeling investigated if worry predicted disordered eating (and vice-versa). Worry prospectively predicted drive for thinness across both two and six months while controlling for previous levels of worry. In the opposite direction, drive for thinness did not predict worry over time. There were no prospective relationships between worry and bulimia or body dissatisfaction. Therefore, interventions focusing on decreasing worry could be effective in preventing and treating excessive concerns about thinness and their associated impairment.

Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; Anxiety; Disordered eating; Drive for thinness; Generalized anxiety disorder; Worry.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of Interests The authors have no conflicts of interests.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
A three-wave prospective model of worry and drive for thinness. Solid lines indicate significant relationships; dashed lines indicate non-significant relationships. Autoregressive parameters are shown in gray to ease interpretation. Time 1 = initial assessment point; Time 2 = measures collected two months after Time 1; Time 3 = measures collected six months after Time 1. DT = drive for thinness. *** p < 0.001.

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