Religious Asceticism in Patients With Eating Disorders: New Domains of Assessment

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Current trends in eating disorder (ED) research emphasize medical understanding of eating problems as evidenced by recent DSM revisions and research emphasis on biogenetic risks in ED research (Klump & Gobrogge, 2005; Walsh, 2009). However, use of a solely medical paradigm eschews historical accounts of the overlap between religious/spiritual (R/S) dynamics and Christian ascetic eating practices. Additionally, asceticism has been an important psychological profile in EDs (Garner, 2004), but has not been measured as a religious construct. The current study assessed the relationship of R/S and ED variables with a newly developed Religious Asceticism (RA) in Restrictive Eating (RARE) scale. Patients (n = 94) treated for anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa, (BN), and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) participated in the study. It was hypothesized that intrinsic religiousness (IR) would moderate the relationship between RA and ED symptoms. Additionally, RA would positively correlate with an existing measure of general ED asceticism, and IR would moderate the strength of this relationship. No relationship was found between RA and ED symptoms as measured by the EAT-26. RA was positively correlated general Asceticism as measured by the EDI-3 (r =.42, p < .01) and this relationship was dependent on patients’ degree of IR (β = .92, p R 2 = .44). These findings indicate that RA is likely sensitive to ED patients with moderate amounts of religiousness and is consistent with other ego-syntonic measures of R/S.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

Abernethy, Alexis D.

Document Type





Eating disorders, Asceticism




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