Lifetime substance abuse, family history of alcohol abuse/dependence and novelty seeking in eating disorders: comparison study of eating disorder subgroups

Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2009 Feb;63(1):82-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1819.2008.01908.x.


Aim: To assess lifetime substance abuse, family history of alcohol abuse/dependence, and novelty seeking in three different eating disorder groups (anorexia nervosa-restrictive; anorexia nervosa-binge eating/purging; anorexia nervosa to bulimia nervosa).

Method: A total sample of 371 eating disorder patients participated in the current study. Assessment measures included the prevalence of substance abuse and family history of alcohol abuse/dependence as well as the novelty-seeking subscale of the Temperament and Character Inventory-Revised.

Results: Significant differences across groups were detected for lifetime substance abuse, with anorexia nervosa-restrictive individuals exhibiting a significant lower prevalence than the anorexia nervosa to bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa-binge eating/ purging patients (P < 0.01). For family history of alcohol abuse/dependence the same pattern was observed (P = 0.04). Novelty seeking was associated with substance abuse (P = 0.002), with the anorexia nervosa to bulimia nervosa group exhibiting significantly higher scores on the novelty-seeking scale than the other two groups (P < 0.001). But family history of alcohol abuse/dependence was not related to novelty seeking (P = 0.092).

Conclusion: Lifetime substance abuse appears to be more prevalent in anorexia nervosa patients with bulimic features. Higher novelty-seeking scores may be associated with diagnosis cross-over.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Anorexia / psychology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bulimia / psychology
  • Exploratory Behavior*
  • Family
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Personality / physiology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Young Adult