Selective cognitive empathy deficit in adolescents with restrictive anorexia nervosa

Sara Calderoni, Pamela Fantozzi, Sandra Maestro, Elena Brunori, Antonio Narzisi, Giulia Balboni, Filippo Muratori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A growing, but conflicting body of literature suggests altered empathic abilities in subjects with anorexia nervosa-restricting type (AN-R). This study aims to characterize the cognitive and affective empathic profiles of adolescents with purely AN-R. Methods: As part of a standardized clinical and research protocol, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), a valid and reliable self-reported instrument to measure empathy, was administered to 32 female adolescents with AN-R and in 41 healthy controls (HC) comparisons, matched for age and gender. Correlational analyses were performed to evaluate the links between empathy scores and psychopathological measures. Results: Patients scored significantly lower than HC on cognitive empathy (CE), while they did not differ from controls on affective empathy (AE). The deficit in CE was not related to either disease severity nor was it related to associated psychopathology. Conclusion: These results, albeit preliminary, suggest that a dysfunctional pattern of CE capacity may be a stable trait of AN-R that should be taken into account not only for the clinical management, but also in preventive and therapeutic intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1583-1589
Number of pages7
JournalNeuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
Publication statusPublished - Oct 16 2013


  • Affective empathy
  • Anorexia nervosa-restricting type
  • Cognitive empathy
  • Female adolescents
  • Interpersonal reactivity index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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