Mentalizing Self and Other and Affect Regulation Patterns in Anorexia and Depression

Lily Rothschild-Yakar*, Daniel Stein, Dor Goshen, Gal Shoval, Assaf Yacobi, Gilad Eger, Bar Kartin, Eitan Gur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study aimed to examine two constructs: general mentalizing processes and the specific component of affective mentalizing regarding self and others alongside the construct of affect regulation patterns in female adolescent and young adult inpatients with anorexia nervosa (AN; n = 41), depression (n = 20) and controls (n = 53). We further examined the predictive ability of affect regulation to eating-disorder (ED) symptoms beyond that of the mentalizing variables, and their potential role in mediating between mentalizing, depression and ED symptoms. We used tools assessing reflective functioning (RF), complex emotion recognition and theory of mind (ToM), alexithymia, affect regulation, depression, and ED symptoms. The AN and depression groups exhibited lower general mentalizing and higher alexithymia, emotional reactivity, and emotional cutoff patterns than controls, but showed no greater disturbance in ToM. The two clinical groups did not differ on any of these variables. Elevated mentalizing and adequate affect regulation patterns separately predicted lower severity of ED symptoms. Nonetheless, affect regulation did not add to the predictive value of mentalizing variables. Specifically, elevated alexithymia, and depressive symptomatology, but not RF, predicted greater ED symptomatology. Moreover, alexithymia directly accounted for elevated ED symptoms and also indirectly connected with ED symptoms via emotional hyperactivation and elevated depressive symptoms. These findings suggest that deficiencies in mentalization and affect regulation are not unique to AN, but may rather associated with psychopathology in general. Nonetheless, alexithymia and depression may increase ED-related symptomatology. Affect regulation deficiencies are mainly related with depressive symptoms and emotional hyperactivation is indirectly related with AN via the depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2223
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2019


  • affect regulation
  • alexithymia
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • mentalizing
  • theory of mind


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