BACKGROUND: We studied associations between emotion dysregulation, self-image and eating disorder (ED) symptoms in university women, and contrasted two indirect effect models to examine possible intervening mechanisms to produce ED symptoms.
METHODS: 252 female Swedish university students completed the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS), the Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB) self-image measure, and the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q). Correlations between scales were followed by five simple mediation analysis pairs with two possible pathways using five ED symptom variables as outcome. The models posited either self-image or emotion dysregulation as mediator or independent variable, respectively. ED symptoms were EDE-Q Global score, objective binge eating episodes (OBE), subjective binge eating episodes (SBE), and two variants of EDE-Q excessive exercise.
RESULTS: Emotion dysregulation and self-image were strongly correlated, and both correlated moderately with EDE-Q Global score. There were distinct indirect effects through self-image on the relationship between emotion dysregulation and ED symptoms, but not vice versa. These indirect effects were evident in relation to cognitive ED symptoms and both OBE and SBE, but not in relation to excessive exercise.
CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that even if closely related, emotion dysregulation and self-image both contribute unique knowledge in relation to ED symptoms. Self-image as an intervening mechanism between emotion dysregulation and ED symptoms is relevant for models of the development, maintenance and treatment of ED, as well as treatment focus.
2015. Vol. 3