Testing intrusive thoughts as illness pathways between eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms: a network analysis

Shruti S. Kinkel-Ram, Brenna M. Williams, Shelby N. Ortiz, Lauren Forrest, Joshua C. Magee, April R. Smith, Cheri A. Levinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and eating disorders (EDs) frequently co‐occur. Intrusive thoughts are a mechanism that may maintain this comorbidity. This study used network analysis to identify central ED-related intrusive thoughts and tested which intrusive thoughts connected ED and OCD symptoms. Two cross-sectional graphical LASSO networks were computed using a sample of 353 non-clinical participants (mean age = 35.38, SD = 9.9, 40% female, 81.6% Caucasian) with elevated disordered eating symptoms. Model 1 included just ED-related intrusive thoughts, and Model 2 included ED-related intrusive thoughts, ED, and OCD symptoms. In Model 1, we found that thoughts about one’s bodily appearance (i.e., looking horrible, getting fat, gaining weight) were most central. In Model 2, we found that desire to lose weight, eating in secret, and shape dissatisfaction were most central. We identified one illness pathway (i.e., difficulty concentrating due to thoughts of food/calories) connecting intrusive thoughts, ED symptoms, and OCD symptoms. However, intrusive thoughts did not bridge ED and OCD symptoms. Hence, we found some evidence that ED-related intrusive thoughts may contribute to ED and OCD symptoms based on thought content and frequency. However, other aspects of intrusive thoughts should be considered to ascertain whether they do in fact significantly contribute to ED and OCD comorbidity. Prevention efforts targeting ED-related intrusive thoughts may attenuate ED and OCD symptoms among subclinical individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)647-669
Number of pages23
JournalEating Disorders
Volume30
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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