Category: Eating Disorders

PS12- #A21 - Age Moderates the Relationship Between Fear of Food and Eating Disorder Symptoms

Saturday, Nov 18
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Eating Disorders | Exposure | Anxiety

Eating disorder symptoms vary based on age, indicating that interventions should be personalized based on age group (Peláz-Fernández et al., 2013). Exposure therapy is a promising intervention for eating disorders that involves targeting eating disorder-related fears, but its effectiveness across age has not yet been tested. One fear that exposure therapy targets is fear of food, which may play a role in the maintenance of eating disorders (Levinson & Byrne, 2014). However, it is unknown whether fear of food affects eating disorder symptoms differently based on age. In the current study (N=168 individuals in treatment for an eating disorder), we investigated whether age moderated the relationship between the three subscales of the fear of food measure (anxiety about eating, food avoidance, and feared concerns about eating) and four eating disorder symptoms (weight concerns, shape concerns, eating concerns, and restraint). Age ranged from 14 to 59 (M = 26.27, SD = 9.44). We found that age moderated the relationships between anxiety about eating (bs≤-.01, ps≤.002)and three of the four eating disorder symptoms: weight concerns, shape concerns, and restraint, but not eating concerns (b=-.01, p=.360). Specifically, older age was associated with high eating disorder symptoms, regardless of anxiety about eating, whereas for younger ages, only individuals who were high in anxiety about eating had high eating disorder symptoms. In addition, we found that age moderated the relationship between food avoidance and weight concerns (b=-0.17, p=.003) and shape concerns (b=-0.02, p=.007) but not eating concerns and restraint (ps≥.141). The same pattern as in anxiety about eating was observed: Older age was associated with high eating disorder symptoms, regardless of food avoidance, whereas for younger ages, only individuals with high food avoidance had high eating disorder symptoms. Finally, we found that age moderated the relationship between feared concerns about eating and weight concerns (b=-0.02, p<.001) and shape concerns (b=-.02, p=.001), but not eating concerns and restraint (ps≥.228). We consistently found that age moderated the relationships between anxiety about eating, food avoidance, and feared concerns about eating and both weight and shape concerns. Regardless of fears of food, older individuals had high levels of eating disorder symptoms, suggesting that there may be additional fears contributing to the maintenance of their eating disorder symptoms. Conversely, fear of food may be an especially important maintenance factor in younger individuals. Targeting fear of food in younger individuals through the use of exposure therapy may be an especially useful intervention to address eating disorder symptoms.

Lisa P. Michelson

Graduate Student
The University of Louisville
New Bern, North Carolina

Leigh C. Brosof

Student
University of Louisville
Louisville, Kentucky

Laura Fewell

Clinical Outcomes & Research Coordinator
McCallum Place Eating Disorder Treatment Centers
Saint Louis, Missouri

Cheri A. Levinson

Assistant Professor
The University of Louisville