Attentional and psychophysiological responses to seasonal and eating stimuli in seasonal depression and disordered eating
DisciplinePsychology : Clinical
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Research indicates similarities in clinical presentation between seasonal depression and bulimia nervosa with respect to disordered eating symptoms such as overeating, carbohydrate craving, weight gain and seasonal pattern wherein more severe symptoms are reported during the winter. Despite the overlap, there has been no research on the specific cognitive profiles and schemas of each psychological disturbance that might help to distinguish the two conditions. This study examines the cognitive profile and psychophysiological reactions of individuals with seasonal depression symptoms, those with disordered eating, and healthy controls through the use of a modified Stroop task, an incidental recall task, and facial electromyographic (EMG) recording during an image viewing task. Results showed that those with seasonal depression symptoms were distinguished from healthy controls on the basis of higher zygomaticus major peak amplitude when viewing images of food. All three groups rated the summer images and binge food images more positively. Supplementary regression analyses were run on the entire dataset to examine the extent to which seasonality, typical depression symptoms, atypical depression symptoms, and the presence/absence of disordered eating symptoms might predict performance on the experimental tasks. Higher atypical depression symptoms were associated with more nonresponses for nonbinge food words on the modified Stroop task as well as higher zygomaticus major peak amplitude when viewing images of binge foods, non-binge foods, and winter scenes. The presence of disordered eating was also associated with higher zygomaticus major peak amplitude when viewing winter scenes. In conclusion, the study did not find support for the position that there might be different cognitive profiles for seasonal depression and disordered eating. The findings are discussed within the context of the strengths and limitations of the study.