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‘The body is a battleground for unwanted and unexpressed emotions’: exploring eating disorders and the role of emotional intelligence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Una Foye, Diane E. Hazlett, Pauline Irving

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-342
Number of pages22
JournalEating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention
Issue number3
Early online date20 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


King's Authors


Emotional difficulties have been observed in individuals with eating disorders across awide range of studies, including poor interoceptive awareness, confusion of emotionalstates and difficulties with emotional language. Literature has linked these difficultieswith emotional functioning as being an important factor related to the core aetiology ofeating disorders, however limited knowledge exists to how this impacts on professionalability to engage patients within treatment as a result of such dysfunction. Using aqualitative design this paper explores how facets of Emotional intelligence (EI) arerelated to the experience of an eating disorder. The study sampled a total of 32participants with either a professional background working with eating disorders (n=25)or participants with personal lived experience (n=5), with a number of the participants(n=13) identified as having dual roles. The findings of the study show that aspects of EIsuch as emotional regulation and lack of an emotional language are considered to beat the core of the onset and maintenance of these disorders. Additional aspects ofemotional awareness and expression were found to be related to treatmentdisengagement and difficulties. Building on previous literature, this paper found suchemotional deficits as a transdiagnostic issue rather than specifically anorexia nervosa.Furthermore, such dysfunction was seen by professionals to have a considerableimpact on therapeutic relationships and successful treatment. These findings provideinsight into the potential applications that EI may have in addressing aspects of theeating disorder to create better outcomes for treatment and intervention models.

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