Examining the effectiveness of an Emotion Skills Training intervention for reducing emotional difficulties in individuals with disordered eating (DE)

Project Summary

The prevalence of disordered attitudes and behaviours relating to eating is widespread, especially among adolescent female populations (Alhaj et al. 2022). Indeed, as both negative body image and disordered eating are found to be implicated in the development of a clinical eating disorder (Alhaj et al. 2022), examining the feasibility of targeted interventions for those most “at risk” is an important avenue for future research.

Despite a wealth of evidence indicating the importance of emotional difficulties in the development of disordered eating, current interventions fail to address emotion regulation (e.g. Lavender et al., 2015; McClure et al., 2022). Importantly, research suggests that inadequate or maladaptive emotion regulation is the reason for relapse in many cases (Lavender et al., 2015). As such, the need to revise the current treatment by providing individuals with the skills to manage their emotions effectively is critical. This PhD aims to develop and test a novel intervention to improve emotional skills in individuals with DE. It is anticipated that findings will not only help to (a) prevent the onset of a clinical diagnosis but will (b) inform treatment for eating disorders given the limited success of current interventions.

The PhD programme of research will broadly cover three main objectives:

This PhD programme builds on existing research carried out by Dr Emma Sharpe which explores the role of emotion in the development of disordered eating attitudes and behaviours (Sharpe et al., 2016; Wallis et al., 2018). It also builds on the research expertise of Professor Frances Maratos, who has designed emotion regulation and wellbeing interventions for a range of different populations (Maratos et al., 2022; Maratos and Pessoa, 2019). To date, the efficacy of interventions to reduce emotional deficits in subclinical disordered eating has not been investigated. The current work aims to address this research and application caveat.

Entry Requirements

Applicants will need either a first-class or upper-second-class honours degree accredited by the British Psychological Society in Psychology or a related subject area.

International students may also need to meet our English language requirements. Find out more about our entry requirements for international students.

How to apply

Please contact Dr Emma Sharpe (e.sharpe@derby.ac.uk) in the first instance for more information on how to apply.

The University has four starting points each year for MPhil/PhD programmes (September, January, March and June). Applications should be made at least three months before you would want to start your programme. Please note that, if you require a visa, additional time will be required.


Self-funded by the student. There is a range of options that may be available to you to help you fund your PhD.


Academic Frances Maratos, smiling.
Professor of Psychology and Affective Science

Frances Maratos’ research informs applied emotion regulation, compassion and wellbeing interventions worldwide. She is widely published and has excellent grant capture. Frances is the exiting Chair of the College of HPSC Research Committee. Her Professorial appointment reflects not only her international research profile but also her longstanding commitment to the University.

Lecturer in Psychology

Charlotte is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology within the College of Health, Psychology, and Social Care. Charlotte primarily teaches research methods and health psychology. Charlotte's research focuses on factors affecting disordered eating (e.g., nature connection, post-traumatic growth, social influences) and the wellbeing of athlete populations.

Emma Sharpe, Psychology lecturer
Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Emma joined the University of Derby as a lecturer in October 2015, having previously worked as a University Teacher at Loughborough University.


Alhaj, O.A., Fekih-Romdhane, F., Sweidan, D.H., Saif, Z., Khudhair, M.F., Ghazzawi, H., Nadar, M.S., Alhajeri, S.S. Levine, M.P., & Jahrami, H. (2022). The prevalence and risk factors of screen-based disordered eating among university students: A global systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression. Eating and Weight Disorders https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-022-01452-0

Lavender, J.M., Wonderlich, S.A., Engel, S.G., Gordon, K.H., Kaye, W.H., & Mitchell, J.E. (2015). Dimensions of emotion dysregulation in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: A conceptual review of the empirical literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 40, 111-122. 10.1016/j.cpr.2015.05.010

Maratos, F. A., Hurst, J., Harvey, C., & Gilbert, P. (2022). Embedding compassion in schools: The what's, the why's, and the how's. In Applied Positive School Psychology (pp. 81-100). Routledge

Maratos, F. A., & Pessoa, L. (2019). What drives prioritized visual processing? A motivational relevance account. Progress in brain research, 247, 111-148

McClure, Z., Messer, M., Anderson, C., Liu, C., & Linardon, J. (2022). Which dimensions of emotion dysregulation predict the onset and persistence of eating disorder behaviours? A prospective study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 310, 123-128. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2022.05.041

Sharpe, E., Wallis, D. J., & Ridout, N. (2016). The influence of variations in eating disorder-related symptoms on processing of emotional faces in a non-clinical female sample: An eye-tracking study. Psychiatry Research, 240, 321-327. doi: 10.1016/j.pyschres.2016.04.065

Wallis, D. J., Ridout, N. & Sharpe, E. (2018). Emotion recognition in non-clinical eating psychopathology: A comparison between static faces and dynamic social interactions. Eating Behaviours, 29, 19-24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2018.01.004