Anderson, Lisa M., Erin E. Reilly, Jennifer J. Thomas, Kamryn T. Eddy, Debra L. Franko, Julia M. Hormes*, and Drew A. Anderson
Fear and disgust are distinct emotions that have been independently linked with EDs and may motivate avoidance behaviors that may be relevant targets for ED interventions (e.g., food rejection). Despite similar motivational function, it is possible that one emotion is more strongly associated with ED symptoms, relative to the other. Given that emerging evidence suggests that disgust-based behavior may be more difficult to change than fear-based behaviors, research is needed to evaluate whether each emotion differentially relates to ED symptoms. Therefore, the current study tested the relative importance of fear and disgust in accounting for variance in ED symptoms. Participants included undergraduate men (n = 127) and women (n = 263) from a university in the northeast US. Participants completed self-report measures assessing demographics, disordered eating attitudes and behaviors, and visual analog scales assessing fear and disgust responses to high-calorie food images, low-calorie food images, and non-food fear and disgust images. Bivariate correlations revealed significant positive associations among fear, disgust, and EDE-Q global symptom scores. Relative weights analysis results yielded relative importance weights that suggested disgust responding to high calorie food images accounts for the greatest total variance in EDE-Q global symptom scores in men, and fear responding to high calorie food images accounts for the greatest total variance in EDE-Q scores in women. Findings provide initial evidence that investigative and clinical efforts should consider fear and disgust as unique facets of negative affect with different patterns of relative importance to ED symptoms in undergraduate men and women.
* Denotes CSDA Associates, Affiliates, and Staff