Illness perception in patients with eating disorders: clinical, personality, and food addiction correlates

Zaida Agüera, Nadine Riesco, Eduardo Valenciano-Mendoza, Roser Granero, Isabel Sánchez, Alba Andreu, Susana Jiménez-Murcia, Fernando Fernández-Aranda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


PURPOSE: Although the role of illness perception in the clinical course of many physical diseases and certain mental disorders has been well described, little is known about illness perception in eating disorders (ED) so far. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to extend our understanding of illness perception in different ED diagnostic types and to explore its association between clinical, psychopathological, motivational, personality, and food addiction (FA) features.

METHODS: The sample consisted of 104 patients with ED [(23 anorexia nervosa (AN), 39 bulimia nervosa (BN), 19 binge eating disorder (BED), and 23 other specified feeding and eating disorders (OSFED)]. Illness perception was assessed by means of the revised version of the Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ-R).

RESULTS: The results supported the association between illness perception and clinical, psychopathological, and personality factors. Patients with BN and BED showed greater illness perception than the other types. Improved illness perception was positively associated with a longer duration of the disorder and FA. Furthermore, a relevant finding suggests that at least half of the patients with ED did not achieve a good level of illness perception until after having the disorder for 20 years on average.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that higher levels of FA and longer duration of the ED are positively and directly associated with increased illness perception. This may explain the low levels of initial motivation in these patients and their high dropout rates in the early stages of treatment.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE III: Case-control analytic study.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEating and weight disorders : EWD
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jan 2021


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