Body mistrust bridges interoceptive awareness and eating disorder symptoms

Tiffany A. Brown*, Irina A. Vanzhula, Erin E. Reilly, Cheri A. Levinson, Laura A. Berner, Angeline Krueger, Jason M. Lavender, Walter H. Kaye, Christina E. Wierenga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Interoceptive awareness (IA), or the awareness of internal body states, is known to be impaired in individuals with eating disorders (EDs); however, little is understood about how IA and ED symptoms are connected. Network analysis is a statistical approach useful for examining how symptoms interrelate and how comorbidities may be maintained. The present study used network analysis to (1) test central symptoms within an IA-ED network, (2) identify symptoms that may bridge the association between IA and ED symptoms, and (3) explore whether central and bridge symptoms predict ED remission at discharge from intensive treatment. A regularized partial correlation network was estimated in a sample of 428 adolescent (n = 187) and adult (n = 241) ED patients in a partial hospital program. IA was assessed using items from the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness, and ED symptoms were assessed using items from the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire. Central symptoms within the network were strong desire to lose weight, feeling guilty, and listening for information from the body about emotional state. The most central symptom bridging IA and ED symptoms was (not) feeling safe in one's body. Of the central symptoms, greater desire to lose weight predicted lower likelihood of remission at treatment discharge. Bridge symptoms did not significantly predict remission. Body mistrust may be a mechanism by which associations between IA and EDs are maintained. Findings suggest targeting central and bridge symptoms may be helpful to improve IA and ED symptoms. This study suggests that desire to lose weight is central to eating disorder psychopathology and is associated with lower likelihood of remission. Feeling unsafe in one's body connects eating disorder symptoms with body awareness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-456
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Comorbidity
  • Eating disorder
  • Interoceptive awareness
  • Network analysis


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