Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4761-2595

Year of Publication

2021

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department/School/Program

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Gregory T. Smith

Abstract

Affective distress may influence eating disorder behaviors in multiple ways. Affective lability refers to the tendency to experience frequent and striking fluctuations in mood. There is considerable evidence that it predicts eating disorder symptoms. Further, alexithymia is characterized by difficulties identifying and describing feelings and an externally oriented thinking style. Alexithymia has also been implicated in the development and maintenance of eating disorders. To date, these risk factors have been studied separately. Given the evidence that both alexithymia and affective lability are affective components associated with eating disordered behaviors, it may be important to examine possible relationships among alexithymia, affective lability, binge eating, and purging. Therefore, I investigated possible moderation and mediation effects longitudinally in 587 college students. Specifically, I tested the presence of joint effects of the two risk factors on binge eating and purging, such that individuals that experience frequent and rapid changes in mood may be more likely to binge eat or purge if they also have a difficult time identifying their emotions. Additionally, I examined the viability of the following mediational processes: that affective lability predicts increases alexithymia, which in turn predicts increases in binge eating and in purging; and that alexithymia predicts increases in affective lability, which in turn predicts increases in binge eating and in purging. Results supported my hypothesis the alexithymia predicts increases in affective lability, which in turn predicts increases in purging. Results were not consistent with the other mediational processes. Moreover, none of the moderation hypotheses were supported. The implications of these results are discussed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2021.280

Funding Information

This study was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), F31AA027960 in 2019.

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