Bridging eating disorder symptoms and trait anxiety in patients with eating disorders: A network approach

Lauren N. Forrest, Laurel D. Sarfan, Shelby N. Ortiz, Tiffany A. Brown, April R. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Objective: Anxiety is thought to influence the development and maintenance of eating disorders (EDs). However, little is known about how, specifically, anxiety influences ED symptoms and vice versa. Network analysis identifies how symptoms within and across disorders are interconnected. In a network, central nodes (i.e., symptoms) have the strongest relations to other nodes and are thought to maintain psychopathology. Bridge nodes are symptoms in one diagnostic cluster that are strongly connected to symptoms in another diagnostic cluster and are thought to explain comorbidity. We identified central and bridge nodes in a network of ED symptoms and trait anxiety features. Method: We estimated a regularized partial correlation network in patients with mixed EDs (N = 296). ED symptoms were assessed with the Eating Disorder Examination–Questionnaire. Trait anxiety was assessed with the Trait subscale of the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory. Items to include in the network were selected with a statistical algorithm to ensure that all nodes represented unique constructs. Central and bridge nodes were identified with empirical calculations. Results: Central ED nodes were dietary restraint, as well as overvaluation of and dissatisfaction with shape and weight. The central trait anxiety node was low feelings of satisfaction. The strongest ED bridge node was avoidance of social eating. The strongest trait anxiety bridge node was low self-confidence. Discussion: Avoidance of social eating and low self-esteem may be routes through which EDs and trait anxiety are linked.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-711
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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