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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Individuals diagnosed with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder often experience a great deal of suffering and persistent reoccurrence of symptoms and engage in suicidal and self-harming behaviors. The bulk of psychological research on eating disorders has historically focused primarily on the experience of negative emotion, which has been well established as a problem across the eating disorders. Emerging evidence suggests that positive emotion dysregulation may also play an important and underappreciated role in eating disorders. The positive emotion dysregulation in eating disorders can take various forms, resulting in either a dearth of positive emotional experience or maladaptive elevations in positive emotion. Some eating-disordered behaviors, such as binge eating, may result in momentary elevations in positive emotion, while others, such as purging, may ameliorate negative emotion and simultaneously promote positive emotions such as relief. In contrast, anorexia nervosa is a disorder frequently characterized by rigid self-control; a growing body of evidence suggests that many anorexia nervosa weight loss behaviors may facilitate the experience and control of positive emotion. Importantly, the experiences of both negative and positive emotion dysregulation may contribute to challenges faced in treating eating disorders and issues with recurrence of symptoms, particularly for anorexia nervosa. Finding alternative methods for facilitating positive emotion in an adaptive manner may be critical for improving current eating disorder treatments. Thus, positive emotion dysregulation may contribute to both onset and maintenance of eating disorders; addressing these issues may provide a promising future direction for improving clinical interventions for eating disorders.

Keywords: eating disorders, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, obesity, emotion, emotion regulation, emotion dysregulation

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