The interplay between emotion regulation, interpersonal problems and eating symptoms in individuals with obesity: A network analysis study

J Affect Disord. 2023 Mar 1:324:61-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2022.12.056. Epub 2022 Dec 22.


Introduction: A complex and bidirectional relationship between eating and psychological symptoms in individuals with obesity has been proposed. This study aims to identify the specific processes playing a role in this association, using a data-driven approach.

Methods: Two hundred ninety-four adults with obesity, including 106 (36 %) with binge-eating disorder, were consecutively admitted to a specialized public center. They completed self-report questionnaires to assess emotion regulation, interpersonal problems, self-esteem, binge-eating symptoms, and expectancies regarding eating behaviors. To assess the interplay among eating and psychological variables, a network analysis was used. The bridge function analysis was also performed to identify the bridge nodes among three communities (eating symptoms, interpersonal and emotional problems).

Results: The network was stable. Limited access to emotion regulation strategies, eating helps manage negative affect, and non-assertiveness were the nodes with the highest strength centrality. Lack of emotional clarity, non-assertiveness, socially inhibition, and binge-eating were the nodes with the highest bridge strength.

Limitations: The main limitation of the study is the cross-sectional nature of the findings which prevents to infer causality regarding the association between symptoms in the network.

Discussion: An interplay between eating symptoms and affective and interpersonal factors characterizes individuals with obesity. Across the variety of psychological problems associated with obesity, the present study suggests specific psychological variables and their connections that could be addressed to improve treatment outcome.

Keywords: Binge-eating; Emotional regulation; Interpersonal problems; Network analysis; Obesity; Self-esteem.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Binge-Eating Disorder* / complications
  • Binge-Eating Disorder* / psychology
  • Bulimia* / complications
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emotional Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Obesity / psychology