Do female dieters have an "eating disorder" self-schema?
Greer S., Cooper M.
BACKGROUND: The processing of schema-related information is important in the maintenance of specific eating disorder (ED)-related belief systems and psychopathology. To date, most research on differences in the processing of ED schematic information has used interview or self-report questionnaire measures. Dieting is a known risk factor for EDs and dieters have been included in some studies. However, they have not been compared with non-dieters on a novel, objective measure of ED related schema processing. METHODS: The current study recruited healthy female volunteers from the community and divided them into dieting (n = 25) and non-dieting (n = 24) groups using rigorous criteria. ED self-schemas with content unrelated to eating, weight and shape were measured using a self-schema processing task. RESULTS: Dieters endorsed significantly more ED relevant words compared to non-dieters, whereas non-dieters rejected significantly more ED relevant words compared to dieters. Reaction times to endorsements and rejections were non-significant when the two groups were compared. In a surprise recall task, dieters recalled significantly more ED relevant words. CONCLUSION: The results of this study support the presence of ED self-schemas with negative content unrelated to eating, weight and shape in otherwise healthy dieters. Implications for future research and the early identification of individuals vulnerable to EDs are discussed.