Emotions in Eating Disorders: What We Know and What We’re Doing About It

Emotions in Eating Disorders: What We Know and What We’re Doing About It

Posted on behalf of Bournemouth University

Emotions in Eating Disorders

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 Bournemouth University and Dorset HealthCare University Foundation Trust are running a one day conference to discuss the topic of Emotions in Eating Disorders. 

Event Date: 15 May 2019

Time: 9:30-15:00

Venue: 2nd floor of the Executive Business Centre (EBC), Lansdowne Campus, Bournemouth University,

9:30-10:00 Registration and refreshments 

10:00 Welcome 


Keynote presentation

Title: Social Emotional Functioning in Eating Disorders: What the Science Tells us about How to Help People Access Social Support in their Recovery

Time: 10:00-11:00

Speaker: Amy Harrison, King's College London

Venue: EB206, 2nd floor of Executive Business Centre 

Abstract:  This presentation will explore what we know so far about the social emotional functioning of people with eating disorders. We will examine experiments which have found that people with eating disorders find it hard to recognise and label emotions in themselves and others and the difficulties they might have in expressing emotions. We will look at experimental data which shows that people with eating disorders are more tuned into rejecting, rather than accepting faces in the social context and we will also look at counter evidence which has reported on the strengths that people with eating disorders have for recognising positive emotions. We will explore some experimental studies which have found reduced eye contact in people with eating disorders when viewing static social images, videos of people interacting and during real-life social interactions. We will also discuss some interesting findings around how people with eating disorders might use their body language differently during social interactions and may be less able to read the cues of others from viewing their bodies. Finally, we will discuss how these differences might affect the social lives of people with eating disorders and think about how knowledge could be used to support people with eating disorders to further develop their social skills so that they can, with greater confidence, access social support as a vital aid to their recovery. 

Morning Workshops (11:00-11:30)

Workshop 1

Title: Emotional Intelligence In Eating Disorders 

Abstract: Emotional difficulties have been observed in individuals with eating disorders across a wide range of studies, including poor interceptive awareness, confusion of emotional states and difficulties with emotional language. Literature has linked these difficulties with emotional functioning as being an important factor related to the core aetiology of eating disorders, however, limited knowledge exists to how this impacts on professional ability to engage patients within treatment as a result of such dysfunction. Drawing on findings from a mixed methods study, I am examine that aspects of EI such as emotional regulation and lack of an emotional language may be considered to be at the core of the onset and maintenance of these disorders. Additional aspects of emotional awareness and expression were found to be related to treatment disengagement and difficulties. Building on previous literature, this work found such emotional deficits as a trans-diagnostic issue rather than specifically anorexia nervosa. Furthermore, such dysfunction may have a considerable impact on therapeutic relationships and successful treatment. These findings provide insight into the potential applications that EI may have in addressing aspects of the eating disorder to create better outcomes for treatment and intervention models.

Speaker:  Una Foye, King's College London

Venue: EB206, 2nd floor of Executive Business Centre 

Workshop 2

Title: Eating Disorders and Multi-Level Models of Emotion

Abstract: Eating Disorders are notoriously hard to treat and current models only show approximately 60% recovery rates. It is argued that current models of treatment of eating disorders, especially AN, are in need of further theoretical development. This presentation will present a series of studies that have looked at emotions in eating disorders and how these have led to the development of the SPAARS-ED (Fox, Power and Federici, 2012). People with eating disorders have significant difficulties with their emotions and there may be evidence for anger and disgust being potentially ‘coupled’ within individuals with eating disorders.  In one of these studies, the anger induction led to an increase in reported levels of disgust and an associated increase in body size. Another crucial aspect of the SPAARS-ED model is that it proposes that emotions, including self-disgust, can become operationalized as a ‘voice’ that is directed at the self. The final part of this presentation is a discussion of some of our recent studies that have looked at working with the ‘anorexic voice’ and how this maybe a fruitful area for treatment development.

Speaker: John Fox, Cardiff University 

Venue: EB2032nd floor of Executive Business Centre 

Workshop 3

Title: The Consequences of Social Rejection in Anorexia Nervosa 

Abstract: Difficulty interacting with others is a key predisposing factor of eating disorder development, as expectations of being negatively evaluated and rejected are prominent. Moreover, research within our lab indicates that individuals with eating disorders have biases in information processing of social information. The present research explores the extent to which watching videos evoking social rejection, as opposed to watching neutral videos, influences the liking and wanting of food stimuli.

Speaker: Ray Chami, King's College London

Venue: EB2052nd floor  of Executive Business Centre 

Keynote presentation

Title: Comedy and Eating Disorders 

Abstract: Using humour to engage audiences, Dave's comedy helps people who are lucky enough to have never experienced an eating disorder understand more and to help remove the discomfort from people who have lived experience.

Time: 11:30-12:30

Speaker: Dave Chawner

Venue: EB206, 2nd floor  of Executive Business Centre 

12:30-13:45 Lunch and opportunity to see Student Posters on the topic of Eating Disorders

Afternoon Workshops (13:45-14:15)

Title: Valuing Lived-Experience When Co-Producing School-Based Workshops To Raise Awareness of Eating Disorders

Abstract: Rethink Mental Illness is a national charity that improves the lives of people severely affected by mental illness through local groups and services, expert information and training and successful campaigning. Rethink Mental Illness’s flagship CYP project, Step-Up: Transitions, ran from 2016-2018 and was successful in promoting mental health and resilience across London schools by delivering a co-produced workshop based on evidence-based CBT principles to overcome low-mood and anxiety. In its final year – between January and March 2018 – the project trialed a small pilot which used the Step-Up framework to deliver a bespoke eating disorder version of the workshop. Today, Hannah will present the results of this small pilot and discuss the importance of using experts-by-experience to co-design and co-deliver this school-based intervention.

Speaker: Hannah Lewis, Rethink Mental Illness

Venue: EB203, 2nd floor  of Executive Business Centre

Title: From IIlness to Research: My Road to Recovery


Abstract: 10 years ago, I started treatment for my eating disorder and today I am dedicating my life to better understand the role of emotions in mental health. In this talk, I will be discussing my road to recovery, including the challenges I had to face, the role of my emotions throughout my journey to recovery and my tips to help those struggling with their eating or their emotions. I will also be talking about some of the research we do here in BU to help better understand the role of emotions in eating disorders. 

Speaker: Laura Renshaw-Vuillier, Bournemouth University

Venue: EB206, 2nd floor  of Executive Business Centre



Plenary and coffee

How to get to BU: Directions, parking & maps

Parking information for Executive Business Centre: There is no parking available at the Executive Business Centre, for information on how to reach the University please visit our website. The nearest pay and display parking is located on Cotlands Road.

Accommodation: The University has preferential rates with a number of local hotels, please quote Bournemouth University when booking to access these rates.  (Preferential rates are subject to availability and will be advised by the hotel at the time of booking)

Carlton Hotel
East Cliff Court Hotel
Miramar Hotel
The Green House Hotel
Ramada Encore

Please note that before placing an order, you will be asked to agree to Bournemouth University’s terms and conditions (see below). Please read these terms carefully and make sure you understand them before ordering any Products.

Bournemouth University’s Online Event Terms and Conditions

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• Where the event has a minimum age limit, we will be entitled to ask any attendee (who we believe may not meet that age limit) for proof of their age and to refuse entry if sufficient proof is not provided. Any age restrictions will be made clear to you as part of the event booking details before you book on to the event.
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• not smoke at the event.

15 May 2019 at 9:00am
until 15 May 2019 at 5:00pm
Executive Business Centre
Bournemouth University

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