Overcoming limitations of self-report: an assessment of fear of weight gain in anorexia nervosa and healthy controls using implicit association tests

Autor(en): Borgers, Tiana
Kruger, Nathalie
Vocks, Silja 
Thomas, Jennifer J.
Plessow, Franziska
Hartmann, Andrea S. 
Stichwörter: Anorexia nervosa; ANXIETY; BODY-IMAGE; DRIVE; Drive for thinness; EATING-DISORDERS; EXPLICIT; Fat phobia; Fear of weight gain; Feeding and eating disorders; IAT; Implicit association; Implicit association test; Nutrition & Dietetics; PERSONALITY; Psychiatry; Psychology; Psychology, Clinical; PSYCHOPATHOLOGY; QUESTIONNAIRE; STIMULI; THINNESS
Erscheinungsdatum: 2021
Herausgeber: BMC
Band: 9
Ausgabe: 1
Background Fear of weight gain is a characteristic feature of anorexia nervosa (AN), and reducing this fear is often a main target of treatment. However, research shows that 20% of individuals with AN do not report fear of weight gain. Studies are needed that evaluate the centrality of fear of weight gain for AN with a method less susceptible to deception than self-report. Methods We approximated implicit fear of weight gain by measuring implicit drive for thinness using implicit association tests (IATs). We asked 64 participants (35 AN, 29 healthy controls [HCs]) to categorize statements as pro-dieting vs. non-dieting and true vs. false in a questionnaire-based IAT, and pictures of underweight vs. normal-weight models and positive vs. negative words in a picture-based IAT using two response keys. We tested for associations between implicit drive for thinness and explicitly reported psychopathology within AN as well as group differences between AN and HC groups. Results Correlation analyses within the AN group showed that higher implicit drive for thinness was associated with more pronounced eating disorder-specific psychopathology. Furthermore, the AN group showed a stronger implicit drive for thinness than HCs in both IATs. Conclusion The results highlight the relevance of considering fear of weight gain as a continuous construct. Our implicit assessment captures various degrees of fear of weight gain in AN, which might allow for more individually tailored interventions in the future.
ISSN: 20502974
DOI: 10.1186/s40337-021-00379-8

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