Recognition of emotional facial expressions in adolescents with anorexia nervosa and adolescents with major depression

Psychiatry Res. 2018 Apr:262:586-594. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.09.048. Epub 2017 Sep 21.


Anorexia nervosa (AN) has been suggested to be associated with abnormalities in facial emotion recognition. Most prior studies on facial emotion recognition in AN have investigated adult samples, despite the onset of AN being particularly often during adolescence. In addition, few studies have examined whether impairments in facial emotion recognition are specific to AN or might be explained by frequent comorbid conditions that are also associated with deficits in emotion recognition, such as depression. The present study addressed these gaps by investigating recognition of emotional facial expressions in adolescent girls with AN (n = 26) compared to girls with major depression (MD; n = 26) and healthy girls (HC; n = 37). Participants completed one task requiring identification of emotions (happy, sad, afraid, angry, neutral) in faces and two control tasks. Neither of the clinical groups showed impairments. The AN group was more accurate than the HC group in recognising afraid facial expressions and more accurate than the MD group in recognising happy, sad, and afraid expressions. Misclassification analyses identified subtle group differences in the types of errors made. The results suggest that the deficits in facial emotion recognition found in adult AN samples are not present in adolescent patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Child
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Facial Expression
  • Facial Recognition*
  • Female
  • Humans