Currently, I am a post-doctoral research fellow at Washington University School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry. For more information, please see healthymind.wustl.edu
Previously, I trained at the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders where I completed my clinical internship and was a part of the research team. For more information please see: http://www.med.unc.edu/psych/eatingdisorders
My graduate training was in the Anxiety and Psychotherapy Laboratory (APL) headed by Dr. Thomas Rodebaugh at Washington University. For more information on the APL please see the lab website: http://www.anxlab.com
I have several research interests all falling under the broad heading of social anxiety and eating disorders.
Comorbidity between social anxiety and eating disorders:
"The current lack of separability of [mental] disorders is not a matter of resolution that will be resolved by the advent of future measurement techniques. Instead, the reason that we have been unable to find true boundaries is simply that there are no true boundaries." (Borsboom & Cramer, 2013)
I am testing a model examining shared vulnerabilities of social anxiety and eating disorders. Specifically, I am interested in fear of negative evaluation, social appearance anxiety, and clinical perfectionism as constructs shared between these disorders. I am currently running a longitudinal study to test if these constructs predict social anxiety and disordered eating over time. Additionally, my dissertation research, which I defended in June of 2013, used an experimental design to test if these fears produce state body dissatisfaction, social anxiety, and eating in the laboratory. We found support for the theory that social appearance anxiety and fear of negative evaluation are shared mechanisms for social anxiety and eating disorders, but the way in which they interact with the environment may lead to disorder specific behaviors.
Recently I have become very interested in applying network models to understand comorbidity between social anxiety and eating disorders. This approach may allow us to use therapy to target individual symptoms that causally produce other symptoms of these disorders.
D-cycloserine and food anxiety: I am working in conjunction with McCallum Place Eating Disorder Clinic, where I conducted a study with patients diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Exposure therapy is the therapy of choice for all anxiety disorders. A medication called D-cycloserine has been found to speed up the effects of exposure therapy in participants with anxiety disorders. We published a study that found that D-cyloserine was effective for exposure for speech anxiety. In the current study, I am testing (a) if exposure therapy is effective for food anxiety and (b) if D-cycloserine enhances exposure therapy for patients who have food anxiety (patients that get anxious when they are eating). Indeed, we found that participants in the D-cycloserine facilitated condition experienced greater weight gain than participants in the placebo condition. We also found that exposure therapy was effective for reducing anxiety in all patients.
Applying empirically supported treatments for anxiety to the eating disorders: My work with D-cycloserine facilitated exposure therapy has sparked a program of research extending our knowledge of exposure and other empirically supported therapies for anxiety disorders to create novel therapies for the eating disorders. I am interested in using other medications, natural supplements, and therapies to enhance exposure therapy. I am also very interested in testing if imaginal exposure therapy can be used to treat the fear of fat in anorexia nervosa. I just recently published a paper in Eating and Weight Disorders on the use of imaginal exposure therapy for anorexia nervosa, in which we showed that imaginal exposure could effectively decrease anxiety and disordered eating symptoms and was feasible to implement in a Partial Hospitalization Program for eating disorders.
Social anxiety, eating disorders, and health: I am also interested in the relationship between fear of negative evaluation and social appearance anxiety and negative health outcomes such as increased body fat content, binge eating, and avoidance of exercise. For example, I am testing if these negative evaluation fears lead to increased weight over time. I also developed a measure called the Social Exercise Anxiety Measure that can be used to measure anxiety that is produced from social exercise activities and can be used in exposure therapy for social anxiety disorder.
Facebook, technology, anxiety, and eating:
I have conducted several studies examining the relationship between Facebook usage and social anxiety. We found that independent raters were able to discriminate profiles of individuals who are high in social anxiety from the content on their profile page. I am also using a telephone automated ecological momentary assessment system (telEMA) to test the relationship between social evaluation fears and daily anxiety, eating, and exercise habits, and eating in the laboratory. telEMA was created by my colleagues for use in psychological research. For more information on telEMA or to use telEMA please see: https://twilio.mattj.me/about
Peer Victimization, social anxiety, and eating:
I am interested in the relationship between peer victimization, social anxiety, and disordered eating. We published a manuscript in Behavior Therapy that found that reactivity to exclusion during a computer simulated task predicted social anxiety symptoms 2 months later.
Culture and anxiety:
I conducted my master's research on acculturation and social anxiety. I have also completed research examining independent and interdependent self-construal's relationship with social anxiety. Finally, we have conducted research examining the role of ethnicity in friendship.
For more information on my research and publications, please download my CV or publications on the publication page: