Evaluation of the cognitive behavioural theory of eating disorders: A network analysis investigation

Suzanne H. W. Mares*, Julian Burger, Lotte H. J. M. Lemmens, Annemarie A. van Elburg, Maartje S. Vroling

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Objective: One of the prevailing theories of eating disorders (ED) is the transdiagnostic cognitive behavioural theory of eating disorders, which suggests that certain ED symptoms, such as over-valuation of eating, shape, and weight, may be more central than others. In the present study, network analyses were used to evaluate these assumptions in a patient sample. Methods: Participants were 336 individuals receiving treatment at an expert center for ED in the Netherlands. Eating disorder symptoms were used to create transdiagnostic and diagnosis-specific networks and assess symptom centrality and density of the networks. Results: Networks for patients with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder confirmed that over-valuation of shape, weight, and eating is the most central symptom in the network. A transdiagnostic network of ED symptoms and separate networks for patients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa showed that strict dieting was an additional central ED symptom. An exploratory analysis revealed that, although eating disorder symptoms decreased, there were no differences in density of the eating disorder networks before and after treatment with cognitive behavioural therapy. Discussion: In conclusion, the current study confirmed that over-valuation of shape, weight, and eating is a central symptom across eating disorders, in agreement with the transdiagnostic cognitive behavioural model of eating disorders. Specifically targeting this symptom in treatment could lead to other symptoms improving as a result.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number101590
    Number of pages8
    JournalEating Behaviors
    Early online date2-Dec-2021
    Publication statusPublished - Jan-2022


    • Eating disorders
    • Network analysis
    • Psychological theory
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy
    • Anorexia nervosa
    • Bulimia nervosa
    • Binge-eating disorder
    • MODEL

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