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Name that Feeling and Decrease Risk of Eating Disorders

Research has shown that more than half of college women have had some eating disorder symptoms. While the cause of eating disorders is still unknown, new research suggests that depression and difficulty expressing one's feelings may be a risk factor for disordered eating, especially in young women with a history of family problems or abuse.

They found that family conflict, family cohesion, childhood physical and emotional abuse and neglect influenced whether a college student would develop problem eating behaviors. They also found that depression and alexithymia - difficulty in identifying and describing one's own feelings - more directly influenced whether women from this type of background develop eating problems.

The authors summarize by stating: "Taken together, results regarding the associations among alexithymia, depression and disordered eating suggest that it is not the mere presence or absence of childhood emotional and physical abuse and neglect that is associated with disordered eating. Rather, the development of alexithymia and depressive symptoms in response to these childhood experiences seems to be most strongly associated with disordered eating severity."

Reference: "Association Between Childhood Physical and Emotional Abuse and Disordered Eating Behaviors in Female Undergraduates: An Investigation of the Mediating Role of Alexithymia and Depression," Suzanne E. Mazzeo, Virginia Commonwealth University and Dorothy L. Espelage, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 49, No. 1.