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September 1980

The Heterogeneity of Anorexia Nervosa: Bulimia as a Distinct Subgroup

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, Toronto.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(9):1036-1040. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780220074008

• Bulimia is a poor prognostic sign in anorexia nervosa. This raised the question of whether bulimia represented an "end stage" of chronic anorexia nervosa or whether bulimic patients were a distinct subgroup. All subjects seen by us personally from 1970 to 1978 were included in this study provided they met modified criteria of Feighner et al (1972). Of this group, 68 experienced bulimia and 73 did not (restricters). Bulimic patients had a history of weighing more and were more commonly premorbidly obese. Bulimic patients were those who vomited and misused laxatives. The bulimic group displayed a variety of impulsive behaviors, including use of alcohol and street drugs, stealing, suicide attempts, and self-mutilation. With regard to family history, the high frequency of obesity in the mothers of bulimic patients was noteworthy. The two groups share features common to patients with primary anorexia nervosa. However, these results suggest a different group of women are predisposed to have anorexia nervosa develop with bulimia.

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