Investigating distress tolerance in females at high vs. low risk for eating disorders across self-report, behavioural and physiological domains in response to a
physical vs. a cognitive stress task.
Objective: Disordered eating has long been theorised to function as a maladaptive way of coping with negative affect and/or aversive psychological states (Haynos & Fruzzetti, 2011). The aim of the current study was to: i) assess the effectiveness of two distress tolerance tasks in inducing negative affect, and ii) investigate emotional reactivity in young females at high vs. low eating disorder (ED) risk in response to the two distress tasks by utilizing physiological (heart rate [HR]), behavioural (i.e., time spent on the task) and self-report measures.
Method: Females (18-25 years of age) at high (N=56) vs. low (N=58) ED risk completed the Breath-Holding Task (BHT) and the “Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task-Computerized” (PASAT-C) and provided their affective ratings upon completion of the tasks. Physiological measurements (HR) were recorded during the two distress tasks and were then averaged for each time period.
Results: Both tasks were successful in inducing negative affect. High risk participants demonstrated greater cardiac reactivity in response to both tasks compared to their low-risk counterparts. The cognitive distress task produced greater emotional reactivity across all modalities (i.e., physiological, behavioural and selfreported) in the high-risk group, as compared to the physical distress task.
Conclusions: Individuals at high ED risk exhibit greater physiological and subjective arousal to distressful stimuli, suggesting hypersensitivity to negative affect. Greater arousal to stress may point to a trait-like feature that exists prior to illness and increases vulnerability, either by making emotions difficult to tolerate or by generating a hyperawareness of the body.
Interoceptive accuracy and eating disorder risk in young female adults: The mediating role of distress tolerance.
Objective: Previous research suggests that eating disorder (ED) populations have difficulties in perceiving bodily signals. However, findings may be compromised by the physical effects of the disorder (i.e., bradycardia). Thus, the first aim of the present study was to examine interoceptive accuracy (IAcc) among young females at high vs. low ED risk, using the Heartbeat Perception Task. If individuals vulnerable to EDs, who are not affected by the physical effects seen at the later stages of the disorder, are more interoceptive accurate, then it is expected that they will experience emotions with greater intensity. Experiencing emotions with greater intensity may, in turn, lead to emotions felt or experienced as a lot more intolerable. Therefore, the second aim of the current study was to examine behavioural reactivity to two distress tasks (i.e., time spent on the tasks), expected to be indicative of distress tolerance (DT), in high vs. low ED risk individuals. Finally, DT was assessed as a possible mediator in the relationship between IAcc and ED risk.
Method: We assessed IAcc and DT in 114 females aged 18-25 years old, either at high (N=56) or low (N=58) risk for EDs.
Results: High risk participants demonstrated higher IAcc and lower DT compared to their low-risk cohorts. DT to cognitive frustration was a significant mediator in the relationship between IAcc and ED risk.
Conclusions: Individuals at high ED risk exhibited higher IAcc and lower DT. Results demonstrate that tolerance to cognitive frustration is an important cognitive-affective mechanism underlying the IAcc-ED risk association.
Eating Disorder Risk: Distress Tolerance and Its Relation to Interoceptive Accuracy
- PhD thesis
- Social Sciences