Date of this Version
Comprehensive Psychiatry 55 (2014) 170–178
This study investigated the links among interpersonal problem areas, depression, and alexithymia in adolescent girls at high risk for excessive weight gain and binge eating disorder. Participants were 56 girls (Mage = 14.30, SD = 1.56; 53% non-Hispanic White) with a body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) between the 75th and 97th percentiles (MBMI z = 1.57, SD = 0.32). By design, all participants reported loss of control eating patterns in the past month. Adolescents were individually interviewed prior to participating in a group interpersonal psychotherapy obesity and eating disorder prevention program, termed IPT for the prevention of excessive weight gain (IPT-WG). Participants' interpersonal problem areas were coded by trained raters. Participants also completed questionnaires assessing depression and alexithymia. Primary interpersonal problem areas were categorized as interpersonal deficits [as defined in the eating disorders (ED) literature] (n = 29), role disputes (n = 22), or role transitions (n = 5). Girls with interpersonal deficits–ED had greater depressive symptoms and alexithymia than girls with role disputes (p's ≤ 0.01). However, girls with role transitions did not differ from girls with interpersonal deficits–ED or role disputes. Interpersonal problem area had an indirect association with depression via alexithymia; interpersonal deficits– ED were related to greater alexithymia, which in turn, was related to greater depressive symptoms (p = 0.01). Among girls at risk for excess weight gain and eating disorders, those with interpersonal deficits–ED appear to have greater distress as compared to girls with role disputes or role transitions. Future research is required to elucidate the impact of interpersonal problem areas on psychotherapy outcomes.