Psychological Construction of Shame in Disordered Eating

  • Setari Parsa William James College


Several features have been shown to perpetuate and characterize anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, ranging from neurobiological and cognitive dispositions to external sociocultural factors. One of these key features is shame, particularly around one’s body. This paper aims to further explore body shame in the context of disordered eating from the perspective of four primary models of emotion: Basic Emotion Theory, Appraisal Theory, Social Construction Theory and Psychological Construction Theory. This paper suggests that a psychological construction model most adequately explains the development of body shame and can best inform clinical treatments addressing this aspect of disordered eating.   

Keywords: body shame, eating disorders, emotion, Psychological Construction Theory 

Author Biography

Setari Parsa, William James College

Second year clinical PsyD student at William James College. BA in psychology and sociology from Case Western Reserve University. MA in psychology from Boston University.

Interests: mood and affect, attention and executive functioning, cognitive-behavioral therapy, neuropsychology, health psychology, childhood and culture. 


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th edition). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Barrett, L. F. (2013). The conceptual act theory: A précis. Emotion Review.

Benjamin, L. T. (2014). A brief history of modern psychology (2nd edition). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Boiger, M., Mesquita, B., Uchida, Y. & Barrett, L. F. (2013). Condoned or condemned: The situational affordance of anger and shame in the United States and Japan. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 520-553.

Boiger, M. & Mesquita, B. (2012). The construction of emotion in interactions, relationships, and cultures. Emotion Review, 4, 221-229.

Dakanalis, A., Zanetti, M. A., Riva, G., Colmegna, F., Volpato, C., Madeddu, F. & Clerici, M. (2013). Male body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptomology: Moderating variables among men. Journal of Health Psychology, 0, 1-11.

Dansie, E. J. (2009). An empirical investigation of the adaptive nature of shame. Retrieved from All Graduate Theses and Dissertations, 226.

Dickerson, S. S., Gruenewald, T. L. & Kemeny, M. E. (2004). When the social self is threatened: Shame, physiology, and health. Journal of Personality, 72, 1191–1216.

Duarte, C., Ferreira, C. & Pinto-Gouveia, J. (2016). At the core of eating disorders: Overvaluation, social rank, self-criticism and shame in anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 66, 123-131.

Duncan, C. & Cacciatore, J. (2015). A systematic review of the peer-reviewed literature on self-blame, guilt, and shame. OMEGA- Journal of Death and Dying, 0, 1-31.

Ekman, P. & Cordaro, D. (2010). What is meant by calling emotions basic. Emotion Review.

Lazarus, R. S., Coyne, J. C. & Folkman, S. (1984). Cognition, emotion, and motivation: the doctoring of Humpty-Dumpty. Psychological Stress and Psychopathology, 218-239.

Levenson, R. W. (2011). The autonomic nervous system and emotion. Emotion Review.

Lindquist, K. (2013). Emotions emerge from more basic psychological ingredients: A modern psychological constructionist model. Emotion Review, 5, 356-368.

McEvoy, P. M., Nathan, P., & Norton, P. J. (2009). Efficacy of transdiagnostic treatments: A review of published outcome studies and future research directions. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 23, 20-33.

Mesquita, B. & Boiger, M. (2013). Emotions in context: A socio-dynamic model of emotions. Emotion Review.

Moors, A. (2013). Two flavors of appraisal theories of emotion. Emotion Review.

National Eating Disorders Association (2016). Retrieved from

Parkinson, B., Fischer, A. & Manstead, A. S. R. (2005). Emotion in social relations: Cultural, group, and interpersonal processes. New York: Psychology Press.

Russell, J. A. (2003). Core affect and the psychological construction of emotion. Psychological Review, 110, 145-172.

Suvak, M. K. & Barrett, L. F. (2011). Considering PTSD from the perspective of brain processes: A psychological construction approach. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 24, 3-24.

Swanson, S. A., Crow, S. J. Le Grange, D., Swendsen, J. & Merikangas, K. R. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in adolescents. Results from the national comorbidity survey replication adolescent supplement. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68, 714-23.

Tracy, J. L. (2013). An evolutionary approach to understanding distinct emotions. Emotion Review.

Troop, N.A. (2016). The effect of current and anticipated body pride and shame on dietary restraint and caloric intake. Appetite, 96, 375-382.

Wade, T. D., Keski-Rahkonen A. & Hudson, J. I. (2011). Epidemiology of Eating Disorders. In Tsuang, M. T, Tohen, M. & Jones, P. B. (Eds.), Textbook of psychiatric epidemiology (3rd Edition). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Weiner, B. (2000). Intrapersonal and interpersonal theories of motivation from an attributional perspective. Educational Psychology Review, 12.

Weir, K. (2016). New insights on eating disorders. American Psychological Association, 47, 36. Retrieved from