Dimensional analysis of emotional trajectories before and after disordered eating behaviors in a sample of women with bulimia nervosa
Becker, Kendra Davis
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Binge eating and purging are typically triggered by increases in negative affect. However, negative affect is a broad term encompassing a variety of negative moods. Furthermore, each mood state consists of three separate dimensions of emotional experience: valence, arousal, and approach/withdrawal. The manner in which these specific dimensions of emotional experience combine to prompt binge eating, purging and combined binge eating and purging is unclear. This study consisted of secondary analyses of a previously collected dataset using ecological momentary assessment in 133 women with bulimia nervosa. In the parent study, participants were asked to rate themselves on their experience of discrete emotions (e.g. happiness, sadness, hostility) and to report episodes of disordered eating behaviors six times a day. In order to examine the effects of the unique dimensional components of emotion on these behaviors, we organized the discrete emotions within the 3-dimensional space characterized by emotional valence, emotional arousal, and approach vs. avoidance motivations. Multilevel modeling was used to examine the trajectories of emotions (organized and grouped according to the three dimensions) prior and subsequent to each behavior. We also examined levels of emotions between days that included disordered eating behaviors and days that did not. While no differences in linear slopes were observed between emotion groups either before or after behaviors, results indicated that avoidance motivations more strongly prompt disordered eating behaviors than approach motivations. Furthermore, disordered eating behaviors appear to be positively reinforced by return of positive valence irrespective of reductions in arousal levels. Between-day analyses revealed that negatively valenced emotions defined by both high arousal levels and avoidance motivations are the most elevated on days with bulimic events.