Student Research Opportunities Program
Eating disorders (EDs) have a complex relationship with interoceptive awareness (i.e., awareness of inner bodily sensations; IA). Research suggests that physical hyper-awareness and tendency to distract from bodily sensations are positively associated with ED symptoms, and body trust (i.e., experiencing one’s body as safe and trustworthy) is negatively associated with ED symptoms (Lattimore et al, 2017; Merwin et al, 2010; Duffy et al, 2020). While physical awareness (PA) and emotional awareness (EA) have been shown in nonclinical samples to be beneficial for affect regulation, similar facets of IA are associated with higher symptomatology in ED samples (Price & Hooven 2018). As such, PA/EA may not be associated with ED symptoms independently, but rather may interact with the need to distract or lack of trust in one’s body to increase ED symptoms.
The current study aims to elucidate whether body trust and tendencies towards distraction moderate the relationships between physical/emotional awareness and ED symptoms. Adolescent girls (N=357) completed self-reported ED and IA measures. Hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses demonstrated that PA, distraction, and body trust were all uniquely and positively associated with ED symptoms (psp=.125). Body trust moderated the relationship between both PA/EA and ED symptoms (ps=.001, -.049), such that lower body trust was associated with a stronger association between PA/EA and ED symptoms. However, distraction did not moderate the relationship between PA or EA and ED symptoms (ps>.288).
These findings suggest that while both distraction and body trust are significantly correlated with ED symptoms, only body trust moderates the relationship between emotional/physical awareness and ED symptoms. Understanding these relationships may aid in the creation of treatment interventions for adolescents with EDs.
Roberts, Emma G; Hunt, Rowan; and Levinson, Cheri PhD, "Body Trust Moderates the Relationship between Physical & Emotional Awareness & Eating Disorders in Adolescents" (2021). Undergraduate Research Events. 30.