Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 88 Issue 1 (March 2015), Pages 1-126

Pre‐treatment attachment anxiety predicts change in depressive symptoms in women who complete day hospital treatment for anorexia and bulimia nervosa (pages 54-70)

Objectives

Individuals with eating disorders are prone to depressive symptoms. This study examines whether depressive symptoms can change in women who complete intensive day treatment for anorexia and bulimia nervosa (BN), and whether these changes are associated with pre‐treatment attachment insecurity.

Design

Participants were 141 women with anorexia nervosa restricting type (= 24), anorexia nervosa binge purge type (= 30), and BN (= 87) who completed a day hospital treatment programme for eating disorders. They completed a pre‐treatment self‐report measure of attachment, and a pre‐treatment and post‐treatment self‐report measure of depressive symptoms.

Results

Participants experienced significant reductions in depressive symptoms at post‐treatment. Eating disorder diagnosis was not related to these improvements. However, participants lower in attachment anxiety experienced significantly greater improvement in depressive symptoms than those who were higher in attachment anxiety.

Conclusions

These results suggest that clinicians may tailor eating disorders treatments to patients' attachment patterns and focus on their pre‐occupation with relationships and affect regulation to improve depressive symptoms.

Practitioner points

  • That depressive symptoms can decrease in women who complete day hospital treatment for anorexia and BN.
  • That improvements in depressive symptoms do not vary according to eating disorder diagnosis in these women.
  • That patients who complete treatment and who have higher attachment anxiety experience less improvements in depressive symptoms compared to those lower in attachment anxiety.
  • That clinicians may attend to aspects of attachment anxiety, such as need for approval and up‐regulation of emotions, to improve depressive symptoms in female patients with eating disorders.

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