The type and frequency of metacognitions in women dieting, not dieting, and with anorexia nervosa
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Metacognitions play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Its function in anorexia nervosa (AN), however, has been neglected. Examining the role of metacognitions in AN may prove useful for developing the AN conceptualization currently lacking. Additionally, it may provide a desperately needed new route for AN treatment, as no efficacious treatment for adult AN is available to date. This study aimed to build on preliminary findings suggesting that individuals with AN are characterized by the cognitive attentional syndrome (CAS), the vital component in the Self-regulatory Executive Function (S-REF) model underlying metacognitive processes. Hence, quantitative and qualitative measures of individuals with AN, dieting, and non-dieting adult women were examined to ascertain whether these groups embodied differences in their metacognitive frequency and nature. ANOVA, bivariate correlation, and ANCOVA were used for data analysis. Findings showed that the AN sample experienced higher overall metacognitions; particularly negative metacognitions and metacognitions around control. When anxiety and depression were controlled for, however, the association became non-significant. Nonetheless, anxious and depressive symptoms are greatly intertwined with eating symptoms and increased metacognitions in the AN sample are still highly plausible. Metacognitive themes endorsed by the AN sample were around sociability and control. Thought control strategies were found to be the same in all groups; however, the AN sample endorsed a higher utilization of punishment and a lower utilization of distraction. Several limitations including small AN sample size and no psychiatric control group should be taken into account. Overall, however, findings suggested that, because the AN sample was characteristic of the CAS and the S-REF model, dysfunctional metacognitions may be worth targeting in AN treatment.