The mentalization profile in patients with eating disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Context: Patients with eating disorders (EDs) may have a lower mentalization ability. To the best of our knowledge, no meta-analysis has so far addressed the multidimensional mentalization profile within these patients.
Objective: To summarize the existing evidence of the mentalization profile and its association with EDs.
Data sources: We searched for articles in PsychINFO, Embase and PubMed using the search terms mentalization, reflective function, adult attachment interview, alexithymia, Toronto Alexithymia Scale, eye test, Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, Theory of Mind, mind-mindedness, mind-blindness, facial expression recognition, metacognition, ED, anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN).
Studies included: Quantitative studies including diagnosed patients with an ED, healthy controls (HCs) and relevant test methods.
Data synthesis: Forty-four studies were included. Nine studies were eligible for the meta-analysis. Significantly lower mentalization ability about oneself was found in patients with an ED when compared to HCs. Groups were more comparable when dealing with mentalization ability of others. Non-significant but clinically relevant results include a tendency for a lower mentalization ability in patients with AN compared to patients with BN.
Conclusion: The mentalization profile is complex and varies across dimensions of mentalization in patients with an ED. Different degrees of mentalization between various EDs were found, implying the necessity for further research on mentalization profiles in different ED diagnoses. The sparse existing literature was a limitation for this meta-analysis, emphasizing that further research on the mentalization profile in patients with EDs is needed.