Objective and subjective binge eating in underweight eating disorders: associated features and treatment outcome

Int J Eat Disord. 2012 Apr;45(3):370-6. doi: 10.1002/eat.20943. Epub 2011 Jun 7.


Objective: To define the utility of the DSM-IV-TR definition of binge eating, as it applies to anorexia nervosa (AN) and underweight eating disorder not otherwise specified (ED-NOS).

Method: We investigated the psychopathological features associated with bulimic episodes in 105 underweight individuals with eating disorders who reported regular objective bulimic episodes with or without subjective bulimic episodes (OBE group, n = 33), regular subjective bulimic episodes only (SBE group, n = 36) and neither objective nor subjective bulimic episodes (n = 36, no-RBE group). The Eating Disorder Examination (EDE), anxiety, depression, and personality tests were administered before and upon completion of inpatient cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) treatment 6 months later.

Results: Compared with the SBE group, OBE subjects had higher body mass index, and more frequent self-induced vomiting, while both OBE and SBE groups had more severe eating disorder psychopathology and lower self-directness than the no-RBE group. Dropout rates and outcomes in response to inpatient CBT were similar in the three groups.

Discussion: Despite a few significant differences at baseline, the similar outcome in response to CBT indicates that categorizing patients with underweight eating disorder on the basis of the type or frequency of bulimic episodes is of limited clinical utility.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy*
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Bulimia / diagnosis
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Bulimia / therapy*
  • Bulimia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Bulimia Nervosa / therapy*
  • Child
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Treatment Outcome