Date of Award

8-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Derek R. Hopko

Committee Members

Derek Hopko, Hollie Raynor, Greg Stuart, Betsy Haughton

Abstract

Distress tolerance and experiential avoidance are important aspects of the coping process. In the current study, both were examined in relation to Body Mass Index and self-reported disturbances in mood and eating behavior. Distress tolerance was measured behaviorally and via self-report to elucidate the manner in which a) the ability to tolerate emotional distress, and b) the ability to persist behaviorally in the presence of stress-inducing stimuli were related to self-reported levels of depression, anxiety, maladaptive eating habits, and bodily concerns. A sample of 73 undergraduate students participated, and height, weight, and waist circumference were measured. Increased experiential avoidance was associated with increased weight status; however, this was true only for the morbidly obese group (n = 1). Increased experiential avoidance and decreased self-efficacy significantly predicted less rewarding eating experiences. Individuals with lower distress tolerance on the DTS reported increased depression, anxiety, and experiential avoidance, and were more likely to indicate eating disturbances and concerns on self-report measures, although distress tolerance generally was unrelated to eating behaviors as indexed on food diaries. These results were not replicated utilizing a behavioral measure of distress tolerance. Future directions for research designed to examine these variables in overweight and obese populations are discussed.

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