• eating disorders;
  • internalizing;
  • externalizing;
  • gender;
  • comorbidity



A large body of factor analytic research supports the idea that common mental disorders are organized along correlated latent dimensions termed internalizing and externalizing. Eating disorders (EDs) have been associated with both internalizing (mood and anxiety disorders) and externalizing (substance use, antisocial personality disorder) forms of psychopathology. Previous studies found that EDs are most strongly related to internalizing disorders. However, no previous factor analytic studies of EDs and the internalizing/externalizing dimensions have evaluated if EDs align with these spectra similarly for men and women. We examined the location of anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED) symptoms within this model of psychopathology among a sample of veterans, a population traditionally understudied in EDs.


Data were from two studies of veterans and their intimate partners (N = 453 men and 307 women). Participants were administered the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV without skip-outs. Lifetime symptom severity scores were used in confirmatory factor analytic models.


A model with AN, BN, and BED symptoms loading onto the distress subfactor of the internalizing domain fit the data best in the full sample and the male and female subsamples. This model was statistically equivalent for men and women.


All three EDs loaded onto distress, indicating that these conditions overlap with psychopathology characterized by negative affect. Investigating latent dimensions of psychopathology is one approach to identifying common factors that partially account for patterns of comorbidity among psychiatric disorders, which may aid in translating research findings into clinical practice. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2014; 47:860–869)