A major focus of the EmP lab is improving the understanding of the risk factors for and causes of eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.  Our research has examined the role of emotion dysregulation and emotional cascades in binge eating and purging, the factors that lead to suicidal behavior in anorexia, and how eating disorders interface with borderline personality disorder.

We also recently published the Positive Emotion Dysregulation Model of Anorexia (See Nothing Tastes as Good as Thin Feels, Selby et al., 2014).  This model suggests that women with anorexia experience positive emotion in a maladaptive way, such that weight loss activities become highly reinforcing due to success with weight loss goals and feelings of control.  This positive emotion with weight loss also motivates them to engage in further weight loss activities. In combination with negative emotion problems, many women with anorexia may experience a “perfect storm” of emotion dysregulation that can make their symptoms very severe.  This model also helps to improve our understanding of the “Pro-Anorexia” website phenomenon, and why these websites can be so harmful.  Ultimately, we hope that a better understanding of what leads to the development of anorexia will help us improve our current treatments.