Eating Disorders Awareness Week: New Research Topic on Prevention and Treatment

By Jodie Birch, Frontiers in Psychology

The month of February marks the start of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which aims to increase support for the visibility of the millions of persons that are affected around the globe.

To shed light on this international event, Frontiers in Psychology launched the Research Topic “Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Enhancing Understanding of Eating Disorders across Sociodemographically Diverse Populations” in the journal’s Eating Behavior section. 

The primary purpose of this Research Topic is to gather contributions that will contribute to scientific knowledge regarding eating disorders, disordered eating, and appearance concerns among under-researched and under-served groups around the world. Many populations continue to be underrepresented in eating disorder research and treatment. Therefore this Eating Disorders Awareness week, we recognize the critical need to broaden our awareness and understanding of the manifestation, correlates, and treatment of eating disorder symptoms and related concerns across a wider range of populations. 

Regardless of age, body weight, ethnicity, gender expression, gender identity, nationality, race, sexual identity, or financial status, eating disorders and related anxieties about appearance can afflict anyone. However, the eating disorders field’s history has been marred by a severely limited understanding of the sociodemographic diversity of those who suffer from the serious symptoms and consequences of these conditions, particularly in terms of how different sociocultural and sociopolitical pressures, attitudes, and experiences across groups may impact onset, maintenance, prevention/intervention, and recovery. This is especially concerning because many of individuals who have been underserved and under-recognized come from marginalized, stigmatized, exploited, or oppressed populations.

Leading this article collection is Dr. Jason M Lavender, from Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU). Dr. Lavender’s research focuses on explaining risk/maintenance variables for eating and weight disorders, with a special emphasis on emotion and emotion dysregulation, personality and temperament, and neurocognitive functioning. His research interests also include multi-method study design, with a focus on combining laboratory-based procedures with naturalistic, real-time data collection. Additionally, his research focuses on specific characteristics that influence the expression and assessment of eating disorder symptoms in boys and men, such as muscularity-related disordered eating and eating disorder assessment.

The specialist team further comprises:

  • Dr. Marisol Perez (Arizona State University). Dr. Perez focuses her research program on both theoretical and applied investigations in the field of eating disorders, with a particular emphasis on Latino communities. She is currently the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology’s President-elect, the Department of Psychology’s co-Director of Clinical Training, a JEDI Faculty Fellow for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Psychological Association’s Board of Scientific Affairs Task Force on Inequities in Academic Tenure and Promotion.
  • Dr. Alvin Tran (University of New Haven). His research focuses on the confluence of body image, disordered eating, health policy, and the health of racial and sexual minorities. Dr. Tran is the director of the WeEmbody Lab at the University of New Haven, which is a research working group of public health professionals and students. He also oversees the JEDI Student Ambassadors program, which promotes justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Dr. Tran is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and is the co-chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. He is a proponent of eating disorder prevention and was honored by the City of Boston with the SPARK Impact Award for Activism and Issue Advocacy in 2018.
  • Dr. Tiffany Brown (Auburn University). Her study focuses on creating and assessing interventions for appearance-based and eating disorders in underserved groups or domains. Her current research projects are aimed at lowering the risk of eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia in LGBTQ+ and male populations, as well as determining factors that influence treatment outcomes across gender and sexual identity, the efficacy of DBT for eating disorders, and how interoception and gastric specific anxiety sensitivity can be targeted in eating disorder treatment (e.g., interoceptive exposure).
  • Dr. Emilio Compte (Adolfo Ibáñez University). He is the coordinator of the Comenzar Research Department in Nuevo, Mexico. Eating Disorders in Men, Muscular Dysmorphia, Eating Disorders in the LGBTQ+ population, and the development and validation of psychological assessment tools are among his research interests.

Submissions to the collection are welcome to explore the following themes:

  • measurement and assessment
  • prevention or treatment considerations or outcome data
  • associations with and/or impact of discrimination or prejudice
  •  epidemiological data
  • minority stress
  • acculturation
  • weight stigma
  • intersectional approaches
  • studies within a diversity science framework
  • mental health and healthcare disparities
  • public health considerations
  • co-occurring psychological symptoms or physical health concerns
  • quality of life and/or impairment
  • sociocultural factors, influences, and theories; food insecurity

The team is particularly interested in research which represent sociodemographically diverse populations.

The overarching goal is to collect contributions that will expand scientific knowledge about eating disorders, disordered eating, and appearance concerns among marginalized, stigmatized, and/or underresearched populations from around the world. Please find the topic here if you would like to explore this further.

Research Topic included in this post: