Emotional reactivity in a clinical sample of patients with eating disorders and nonsuicidal self-injury

Kathryn E. Smith*, Nicole A. Hayes, Denise M. Styer, Jason J. Washburn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Emotional reactivity is theorized to contribute to both eating disorders (ED) and nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). Although EDs and NSSI frequently co-occur, no study has examined emotional reactivity in individuals with both conditions. This study examined the following hypotheses in a large clinical sample (N = 648): (1) patients with co-occurring ED and NSSI would report higher emotional reactivity and more severe clinical characteristics; (2) among those with EDs, patients with bulimia nervosa (BN) would be more likely to report NSSI and evidence higher emotional reactivity compared to those with anorexia nervosa (AN); and (3) higher emotional reactivity would be associated with worse treatment outcomes. Data were collected at admission and discharge from inpatient, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient treatment programs for EDs or NSSI. The NSSI-only and co-occurring groups reported significantly higher emotional reactivity than the ED-only group. Among those with EDs, individuals with BN reported higher emotional reactivity and were more likely to engage in NSSI compared to those with AN. Emotional reactivity was inconsistently related to treatment outcomes among the co-occurring and ED-only groups. In sum, results highlight the importance of emotional reactivity in clinical presentations, particularly when NSSI is present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-525
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Nonsuicidal self-injury
  • Treatment outcome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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