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Emotional processing in obesity: a systematic review and exploratory meta-analysis

11 Oct 2017


The role of emotional functioning in the development and maintenance of obesity has been investigated, but the literature is poorly integrated. A systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to explore emotional processing impairments in obesity. PubMed, Web of Knowledge and PsycINFO databases were searched in March 2016, yielding 31 studies comparing emotional processing competencies in individuals with obesity, with or without binge eating disorder (BED), and control groups. Meta-analyses demonstrated that individuals with obesity had higher scores of alexithymia (d = 0.53), difficulty in identifying feelings (d = 0.34) and externally oriented thinking style (d = 0.31), when compared with control groups. On other competencies, patients with obesity, especially those with comorbid BED, reported lower levels of emotional awareness and difficulty in using emotion regulation strategies, namely, reduced cognitive reappraisal and acceptance, and greater suppression of expression. No evidence of impaired ability to recognize emotions in others or verbally express emotions was found. A general emotion-processing deficit in obesity was not supported. Instead, an emotional avoidance style may occur modulating later responses of emotion regulation. Additional research is needed to extend the comprehension of these conclusions and the role of BED in emotional functioning in obesity.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Obesity Reviews