Does “excessive” or “compulsive” best describe exercise as a symptom of bulimia nervosa?




The criteria in the 4th ed. of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV; Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association) for bulimia nervosa include “excessive exercise” as an inappropriate compensatory behavior, suggesting that it is the quantity of the physical activity that is symptomatic, rather than its quality. The current study evaluated the hypothesis that psychological commitment to exercise (compulsive quality) will be more predictive of disordered eating attitudes and behaviors than the amount of time devoted to exercise (excessive quantity).


Female (n = 162) and male (n = 103) undergraduates completed the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI) subscales, the Obligatory Exercise Questionnaire (OEQ), and questions to assess the duration and frequency of exercise.


Using multivariate analysis, the OEQ score was a positive predictor of disordered eating attitudes and behaviors, and exercise time was a negative predictor.


“Compulsive” may be a better description than “excessive” in characterizing exercise as a symptom of bulimia nervosa. © 2005 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.