Impulsivity in women with eating disorders: problem of response inhibition, planning, or attention?

Int J Eat Disord. 2006 Nov;39(7):590-3. doi: 10.1002/eat.20296.


Objective: Impulsivity is generally believed to be more characteristic of individuals with bulimic than with restrictive eating disorders (EDs). However, studies have not exhaustively explored the association between EDs and various component dimensions of the impulsivity construct.

Method: We conducted a multidimensional assessment of impulsivity in 84 women with bulimia nervosa (BN), 37 with anorexia nervosa (AN: 19 restricters and 18 bingers-purgers), and 61 normal-control participants. To assess multiple components of impulsivity, participants completed a battery of self-report questionnaires and a performance test.

Results: Compared with normal-control participants, all ED groups showed attentional problems. However, only women suffering BN or AN-binge purge subtype showed elevations on motoric forms of impulsivity, whereas women with BN were the only group to report tendencies toward reckless behavior.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that binge-eating behavior coincides with problems of response inhibition, whereas a risk-taking attitude may be a unique characteristic of individuals with BN.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / epidemiology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Attention*
  • Bulimia Nervosa / epidemiology*
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / diagnosis
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis
  • Personality Disorders / epidemiology
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires