Quantifying the dynamics of emotional expressions in family therapy of patients with anorexia nervosa

Psychiatry Res. 2017 Jul:253:49-57. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.03.044. Epub 2017 Mar 23.


Emotional interactions have been considered dynamical processes involved in the affective life of humans and their disturbances may induce mental disorders. Most studies of emotional interactions have focused on dyadic behaviors or self-reports of emotional states but neglected the dynamical processes involved in family therapy. The main objective of this study is to quantify the dynamics of emotional expressions and their changes using the family therapy of patients with anorexia nervosa as an example. Nonlinear methods characterize the variability of the dynamics at the level of the whole therapeutic system and reciprocal influence between the participants during family therapy. Results show that the variability of the dynamics is higher at the end of the therapy than at the beginning. The reciprocal influences between therapist and each member of the family and between mother and patient decrease with the course of family therapy. Our results support the development of new interpersonal strategies of emotion regulation during family therapy. The quantification of emotional dynamics can help understanding the emotional processes underlying psychopathology and evaluating quantitatively the changes achieved by the therapeutic intervention.

Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; Emotion; Family therapy; Interaction; Nonlinear dynamic.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Expressed Emotion*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Family Relations / psychology*
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychopathology
  • Young Adult