Excessive exercise is a well-known phenomenon in anorexia nervosa, but less is known about its role in bulimia nervosa. In addition, there is little evidence regarding the psychopathological processes that might act as predisposing, triggering, or maintaining factors for such exercise. The present study examined the presence of excessive exercise in different women with eating disorders, and its psychopathological correlates.
Case notes from 63 anorexia nervosa and 61 bulimia nervosa patients were examined. Two-way multivariate analyses of variance (diagnosis × use of excessive exercise) were used to determine the impact of the two factors upon eating characteristics (EAT-40 and BITE) and psychopathological symptoms (SCL-90-R).
While high levels of depression were more likely among all patients who used excessive exercise, levels of anxiety and somatization were particularly high only among those anorexics who exercised excessively.
Possible explanatory models are advanced to account for this pattern of findings, focusing on the possible use of exercise as an affect regulation strategy among anorexia nervosa patients. Further research is suggested to test and develop this model, and possible clinical implications are outlined. © 2002 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 31: 370–375, 2002.