Master of Science
Bodell, Lindsay P.
Eating disorders (EDs) are serious mental illnesses often with poor prognosis. Personalizing evidence-based treatments based on an individual’s reasons for engaging in ED behaviours – or the functions of EDs – may improve treatment outcomes; however, no validated measures assessing these functions exist. The goal of this study was to complete the initial steps in developing a measure of ED functions. Individuals who engage in ED behaviours (n = 16) and clinicians who treat EDs (n = 14) were interviewed, and a thematic analysis was conducted to determine key functions of EDs. Four main functions of EDs were identified: 1) alleviating shape, weight, and eating concerns, 2) regulating emotions, 3) regulating one’s self-concept/ maladaptive schemas, and 4) regulating interpersonal relationships/ communicating with others. Self-report items were developed based on these themes to create a 102-item measure of ED functions that will be further developed and validated in future research.
Summary for Lay Audience
Eating disorders (EDs) are serious and deadly mental illnesses. However, our current treatments do not work for a substantial portion of patients. One reason why ED treatments do not work for everyone might be that these treatments take a “one-size-fits-all” approach. They do not necessarily treat the underlying reason why someone engages in ED behaviours. Thus, the field needs to understand the reasons why individuals engage in ED behaviours – or the functions of EDs. By measuring the functions of EDs, clinicians can personalize treatment to meet the needs of individuals. The goal of this study was to develop a measure to assess the functions of individuals’ ED behaviours. Individuals who engage in ED behaviours (n = 16) and clinicians who treat EDs (n = 14) were interviewed, and they completed a checklist indicating various reasons people engage in ED behaviours. Responses from these interviews were categorized into broad categories to determine the key functions of EDs. Responses from these interviews and checklists were also used to create a list of questions for a measure of ED functions. Four main functions of EDs were identified from these interviews: 1) alleviating shape, weight, and eating concerns, 2) regulating emotions, 3) regulating one’s self-concept and how they relate to the world, and 4) regulating interpersonal relationships or to communicate with others. With this information, a draft of a measure that clinicians can use to identify why their clients use ED behaviours was created. Once validated, clinicians can use this measure to determine the best type of treatment for a client. For instance, if the main function of a client’s ED behaviours is to regulate their emotions, then this client might be advised to participate in a therapy designed to help with emotion regulation. Future research will validate this measure so that it can be used by clinicians and researchers.
Kinnear, Abbigail, "Why Do People Engage in Eating Disorder Behaviours?" (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7909.