Categorical versus dimensional models of eating disorders: An examination of the evidence




Eating disorders have been conceptualized as discrete syndromes or categories and as dimensions that differ in degree among individuals. Until recently, researchers have not directly addressed which of these models, categorical versus dimensional, is most valid.


The primary objective of this review was to examine the evidence related to the validity of dimensional versus categorical models of eating disorders.


Findings from a series of taxometric studies have suggested that a conceptual representation of eating disorders may involve a latent taxon, related to binge eating (and possibly purging), and one or more dimensions. These studies found that binge eating was identified as a factor that does not occur on a continuum with anorexia nervosa, restricting subtype. Restricting subtype anorexia is continuous with normalcy, however.


These findings should be viewed as preliminary evidence that may have implications for the etiology, assessment, prevention, and treatment of eating disorders. © 2004 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.