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Keywords:

  • bulimia nervosa;
  • classifi-cation;
  • eating disorders;
  • objective binge eating;
  • subjective binge eating

Abstract

Objectives:

To determine whether a variant bulimic-type presentation, whereby one meets criteria for bulimia nervosa (BN) except that binge eating episodes are not objectively large (i.e., “subjective bulimia nervosa,” SBN), has comparable clinical severity to established eating disorders, particularly BN.

Method:

Treatment-seeking adults with BN (N = 112), SBN (N = 28), anorexia nervosa restricting type (AN-R) (N = 45), and AN-binge/purge type (AN-B/P) (N = 24) were compared.

Results:

Overall, SBN could not be meaningfully distinguished from BN. SBN and BN had equivalent eating pathology, depression and anxiety symptoms, low quality of life, impulsivity, Axis I comorbidity, and lifetime psychiatric history, and comparable clinical severity to AN-R and AN-B/P.

Discussion:

Individuals with SBN, differing from BN only by the smaller size of their binge eating episodes, had a form of eating disorder comparable in clinical severity to threshold AN and BN and warranting clinical attention. Health professionals and the community require greater awareness of this variant to optimize detection, treatment-seeking, and outcomes. © 2012 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2013)