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A multifaceted study of interpersonal functioning and cognitive biases towards social stimuli in adolescents with eating disorders and healthy controls

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Katie Rowlands, Ben Grafton, Silvia Cerea, Mima Simic, Colette Hirsch, Tegan Cruwys, Robyn Yellowlees, Janet Treasure, Valentina Cardi

Original languageEnglish
Article numberJAFD-D-21-00043R1
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Published14 Jul 2021

King's Authors


Background: Cognitive biases towards social stimuli have been identified as one of the putative modifiable mechanisms to remediate interpersonal difficulties in adolescents with psychiatric disorders. However, evidence for these biases in adolescents with eating disorders is scarce. Methods: This study assessed interpersonal sensitivity, cognitive bias towards social stimuli, and quality and quantity of social groups in adolescents with eating disorders (n = 80), compared to healthy peers (n = 78). and examined whether a negative interpretation bias would mediate the relationship between interpersonal sensitivity, eating disorder symptoms and positive group memberships. Results: Adolescents with eating disorders displayed greater interpersonal awareness, negative interpretation biases towards ambiguous social information and poorer quality relationships with their social groups compared to healthy controls. In a simple mediation model, interpersonal awareness predicted eating disorder symptoms, and this effect was partially mediated by a negative interpretation bias. Limitations: Due to the high prevalence of psychiatric comorbidity in the patient group, we did not conduct comparisons between patients with eating disorders who reported a current comorbidity with those who did not. Conclusions: Psychological interventions which aim to reduce a negative interpretation bias might help to reduce the severity of eating disorder symptoms in adolescents with eating disorders.

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