Causal Connections Between Anorexia Nervosa and Delusional Beliefs

Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-22 (forthcoming)
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Numerous studies of the beliefs of people with anorexia nervosa (AN) suggest that a subset of such individuals may experience delusions. We first describe what makes a belief delusional and conclude that such characteristics can be appropriately applied to some beliefs of people with AN. Next, we outline how delusional beliefs may relate to the broader psychopathological process in AN, including: (1) they may be epiphenomenal; (2) they may be an initial partial cause of AN; (3) they may be caused by aspects of AN; or (4) they may be sustaining causes, possibly involved in reciprocal causal relations with aspects of AN. We argue that there is good reason to believe that delusional beliefs of people with AN are not merely epiphenomenal, but rather that they’re causally connected to AN. Because of this, empirical studies can be designed to test for the presence of causal relations. We describe how these studies should be designed. The results of such studies have important implications for understanding the experience of individuals with AN and for the treatment of AN. We outline these implications.

Author's Profile

Lindsay Rettler
University of Wyoming


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