Eating Disorders : Steps Towards an Increased Understanding

Abstract: Eating disorders and disordered eating attitudes and behaviors are characterized by an over-evaluation of weight and shape, under or over-controlled eating, as well as engagement in compensatory behaviors. The disorders are associated with psychological suffering, acute and long-term health impairments, a high rate of suicide attempts as well as an increased risk of mortality. Knowledge regarding the etiology of eating disorders is limited and based on current models it is not possible to adequately predict either who will get an eating disorder or who will recover. This lack of understanding has hindered the development of effective prevention and treatment interventions.The aim of the present thesis was to contribute towards an increased understanding of eating disorders and disordered eating attitudes and behavior through the collection of norms and psychometric data, investigation of risk factors and their roles, and focusing on the understudied group of males with eating disorders. Five studies were included. Specifically, Study I focused on collecting general population and clinical norms on the well-established Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q) and the Clinical Impairment Assessment Questionnaire (CIA). Study II both collected general population norms on, and investigated psychometric properties of, the Body Shape Questionnaire (BSQ-8C), an instrument intended to assess body dissatisfaction. Study III focused on the role of perfectionism (an established risk factor for eating disorders) as a possible mediator or moderator between body dissatisfaction and disordered eating behavior and attitudes. Finally, in Study IV and V attention was placed on males. In Study IV the specific aim was to compare the clinical characteristics between young males and females with eating disorders while in study V the specific aim was to explore variables associated with disordered eating among young males based on a compilation of factors known to play a role among females as well as factors thought to be uniquely associated with males, such as sexual orientation and drive for muscularity. A greater understanding of eating disorders will help reduce the stigma that is associated with eating disorders, easing the way for affected individuals to seek help and ultimately improve the development of effective prevention and intervention.