Avoidance in Anorexia Nervosa: towards a research agenda

Hanna Melles, Michelle Spix, Anita Jansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Anorexia Nervosa is a severe and disabling mental disorder and a huge challenge to treat. Intense fears of e.g., food, eating, weight gain and social evaluation are core features of anorexia nervosa and obstacles during treatment. The perceived threats trigger avoidance and safety behaviors like highly restrictive eating, strict eating rules, vomiting and body checking, to minimize feared outcomes. The role of avoidance in anorexia nervosa is however hardly studied experimentally. In the present article, the focus is on a new transdiagnostic research agenda featuring both basic and clinical experimental research into avoidance as a most important mechanism maintaining the eating disorder. Avoidance learning and the generalization of learned avoidance behaviors are discussed, as well as safety behaviors and the need for inhibitory learning as a treatment target during exposure therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113478
JournalPhysiology & Behavior
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 May 2021

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