Core psychopathology in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: A network analysis

Lauren N. Forrest, Payton J. Jones, Shelby N. Ortiz, April R. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Objective: The cognitive–behavioral theory of eating disorders (EDs) proposes that shape and weight overvaluation are the core ED psychopathology. Core symptoms can be statistically identified using network analysis. Existing ED network studies support that shape and weight overvaluation are the core ED psychopathology, yet no studies have estimated AN core psychopathology and concerns exist about the replicability of network analysis findings. The current study estimated ED symptom networks among people with anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) and among a combined group of people with AN and BN. Method: Participants were girls and women with AN (n = 604) and BN (n = 477) seeking residential ED treatment. ED symptoms were assessed with the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire (EDE-Q); 27 of the EDE-Q items were included as nodes in symptom networks. Core symptoms were determined by expected influence and strength values. Results: In all networks, desiring weight loss, restraint, shape and weight preoccupation, and shape overvaluation emerged as the most important symptoms. In addition, in the AN and combined networks, fearing weight gain emerged as an important symptom. In the BN network, weight overvaluation emerged as another important symptom. Discussion: Findings support the cognitive–behavioral premise that shape and weight overvaluation are at the core of AN psychopathology. Our BN and combined network findings provide a high degree of replication of previous findings. Clinically, findings highlight the importance of considering shape and weight overvaluation as a severity specifier and primary treatment target for people with EDs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)668-679
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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