Self-reported interoceptive deficits in eating disorders: A meta-analysis of studies using the eating disorder inventory
Objective: An impairment of the ability to sense the physiological condition of the body – interoception – has long been proposed as central to the onset and maintenance of eating disorders. More recent attention to this topic has generally indicated the presence of interoceptive deficits in individuals with an eating disorder diagnosis; however, possible links with specific diagnosis, BMI, age, illness duration, depression, and alexithymia remain unclear from individual studies. This meta-analysis aimed to provide a necessary quantitative overview of self-reported interoceptive deficits in eating disorder populations, and the relationship between these deficits and the previously mentioned factors. Methods: Using a random effects model, our meta-analysis assessed the magnitude of differences in interoceptive abilities as measured using the Eating Disorder Inventory in 41 samples comparing people with eating disorders (n=4308) and healthy controls (n=3459). Follow-up and moderator analysis was conducted, using group comparisons and meta-regressions. Results: We report a large pooled effect size of 1.62 for eating disorders with some variation between diagnostic groups. Further moderator analysis showed that BMI, age and alexithymia were significant predictors of overall effect size. Conclusion: This meta-analysis is the first to confirm that large interoceptive deficits occur in a variety of eating disorders and crucially, in those who have recovered. These deficits may be useful in identifying and distinguishing eating disorders. Future research needs to consider both objective and subjective measures of interoception across different types of eating disorders and may fruitfully examine interoception as a possible endophenotype and target for treatment.