Eating disorders need more experimental psychopathology

Anita Jansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Eating disorders are severe and disabling mental disorders. The scientific study of eating disorders has expanded dramatically over the past few decades, and provided significant understanding of eating disorders and their treatments. Those significant advances notwithstanding, there is scant knowledge about key processes that are crucial to clinical improvement. The lack of understanding mechanisms that cause, maintain and change eating disorders, currently is the biggest problem facing the science of eating disorders. It hampers the development of really effective interventions that could, be fine-tuned to target the mechanisms of change and, therefore, the development of more effective treatments. It is argued here that the science of eating disorders and eating disorder treatment could benefit tremendously from pure experimental studies into its mechanisms of change, that is, experimental psychopathology (EPP). To illustrate why eating disorders need more EPP research, some key symptoms - restriction of intake, binge eating and body overvaluation - will be discussed. EPP studies challenge some generally accepted views and offer a fresh new look at key symptoms. This will, consequently, better inform eating disorder treatments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-10
Number of pages9
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • Eating disorders
  • Experimental psychopathology
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Dietary restraint
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Mechanisms of change


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