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Reduced cardiovascular activation following chronic stress in caregivers of people with anorexia nervosa

Caring for offspring diagnosed with eating disorders (EDs) puts caregivers under high levels of chronic stress, which have negative consequences for their health. Unfortunately, caregivers have received little attention from mental health professionals. Chronic stress experienced by informal caregivers has been associated with the alteration of body homeostasis, and therefore, the functioning of various physiological systems. This could be the basis of health problems in informal caregivers of people with EDs. The main objective of this study was to analyze physiological response, in terms of heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV), to an acute laboratory stressor in a sample of informal caregivers of individuals with anorexia nervosa (n = 24) compared to a sample of noncaregivers (n = 26). In addition, the relationship between depressive mood and the aforementioned cardiovascular response parameters was analyzed in the group of caregivers. Caregivers had higher high-frequency (HF) power HRV, and lower HR, low-frequency (LF) power HRV and LF/HF ratio values than noncaregivers, which suggests lower cardiovascular reactivity to the acute stressor than noncaregivers. Moreover, a blunted HR response to stress was associated with high depressive mood scores in caregivers. Hence, it seems that the worse the mood the lower the cardiovascular reactivity to stressful events in this population. Developing and implementing psychotherapeutic interventions focused on stress management would help caregivers to reduce their stress levels and cope more effectively with stressors.

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Key Information

Type of Reference
Jour
Type of Work
Journal article
Publisher
Informa Healthcare
ISBN/ISSN
1607-8888
Publication Year
2017
Issue Number
4
Journal Titles
Stress
Volume Number
20
Start Page
390
End Page
397