Rumination and eating disorder psychopathology: A meta-analysis

Publication date: April 2018
Source:Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 61
Author(s): Kathryn E. Smith, Tyler B. Mason, Jason M. Lavender
Rumination is a cognitive process involving repetitive thoughts about negative experiences and emotions and is associated with psychopathology. Rumination has been implicated in mood and anxiety disorders, and there is a growing body of research on rumination in relation to eating disorder (ED) psychopathology. The current meta-analytic review focused on the literature addressing rumination and ED psychopathology. A comprehensive search process identified 38 studies, which primarily used cross-sectional designs with non-clinical samples. Results demonstrated that rumination was concurrently (r = 0.33) and prospectively (r = 0.22–0.23) associated with ED psychopathology, and that groups with ED psychopathology evidenced higher levels of rumination compared to non-ED control groups (g = 0.95), though no significant differences in rumination were observed when comparing anorexia nervosa to bulimia nervosa groups (g = 0.09). In addition, a narrative review of five experimental studies suggested that rumination in response to ED-related stimuli was related to increased negative affect and negative body-related cognitions across clinical and non-clinical samples. The type of rumination and sample population emerged as moderators of effect sizes, such that larger effects were observed among samples using ED-specific measures of rumination and heterogeneous samples compared to only non-clinical samples. Taken together, this literature demonstrates that rumination is a salient process in ED psychopathology, though the literature is characterized by methodological limitations and the need for more fully elaborated theories on the role of rumination in EDs. Findings are discussed in the context of existing models of rumination and ED psychopathology, with suggestions for future research in this area.