Category: Eating Disorders
A growing body of literature highlights shared risk for social anxiety and disordered eating (EDs) (Levinson et al., 2013). Fear of negative evaluation (FNE)-- the fear that one will be evaluated negatively by others—is a central feature of social anxiety and has been prospectively linked to eating pathology (DeBoer et al., 2013). As such, this variable may represent an important cognitive risk factor for disordered eating (Menatti et al., 2015). However, despite consistent links between FNE and EDs, mechanisms through which FNE increases risk for EDs remain unclear. One potential process that may heighten risk for EDs over time is repetitive negative thinking (RNT)—a process linked in prior research to both social anxiety and EDs (Ehring & Watkins, 2008). More specifically, it may be the case that individuals endorsing high levels of FNE engage in repetitive, non-productive self-critical thought related to weight- and shape-salient social events, and that over time, this process exacerbates cognitive features of disordered eating. The current study aimed to evaluate ruminative thought as a mediator of the relation between FNE and ED symptoms over the course of 3 months. Undergraduates (N = 82) completed the Ruminative Response Styles Questionnaire (RRS), the Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (BFNE), and the Eating Disorders Examination—Questionnaire (EDE-Q total) at baseline, and 1- and 2-month follow-up. Correlation analyses revealed significant, positive correlations between all variables. Using bootstrapping analyses and controlling for initial levels of eating pathology and ruminative thought, RRS scores at 1 month follow-up fully mediated the link between BFNE at baseline and EDE-Q total scores 2 months later, b = .011, 95% CI: (.003, 03). Following accounting for increases in RRS scores over time, the association between BFNE and EDE-Q scores was no longer significant (b = .02, p = .10). Results from the current investigation indicate that increases in RNT accounts for prospective links between FNE and eating pathology, and may represent an important process to target within treatment for EDs and social anxiety.