This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The impact of emotion (dys)regulation on eating disorder outcomes: A longitudinal examination in a residential eating disorder treatment facility




Sawyer, Hannah

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Psychological Sciences

Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



Eating disorders (ED’s) are a complex set of disorders associated with a high rate of comorbidities and innumerable deleterious outcomes (e.g., medical complications, high rates of death by suicide). The complexities of ED’s are further compounded by treatment dropout, poor treatment outcomes, and relapse. One way to better understand said complexities is to investigate broad, transdiagnostic risk factors that contribute to the etiology and maintenance of EDs. An established, transdiagnostic risk factor in the ED literature is emotion regulation or lack thereof. However, only a handful of studies have longitudinally investigated the role of emotion (dys)regulation and ED treatment outcomes, and even fewer have examined these factors in a residential treatment center. As such, we sought to longitudinally examine the relationship between emotion (dys)regulation and ED outcomes in a sample of 101 female ED patients in a southeastern U.S. residential ED treatment facility. Consistent with our hypothesis, there were statistically significant improvements in both emotion dysregulation and eating pathology from admission to discharge. Further, improvements in one’s ability to engage in emotion regulation strategies was a statistically significant predictor of improvement in ED cognitive symptoms. Also consistent with hypothesis, improvement in emotion dysregulation was a statistically significant predictor of improvement in eating disorder risk. These findings are consistent with previous literature that substantiates the role of emotion dysregulation in eating disorders and provides further evidence for the impact of emotion dysregulation on eating pathology in residential eating disorder patients. Though additional work is needed to improve and validate treatment approaches in residential treatment centers, the current study provides promising evidence that the treatment in these centers is associated with improvement in emotion dysregulation and ED pathology/risk.