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Keywords:

  • food addiction;
  • Yale Food Addiction Scale;
  • bulimia nervosa;
  • binge eating;
  • substance dependence

Abstract

In individuals with obesity and binge eating disorder (BED), eating patterns can show addictive qualities, with similarities to substance use disorders on behavioural and neurobiological levels. Bulimia nervosa (BN) has received less attention in this regard, despite their regular binge eating symptoms. The Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) was developed according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders, and food addiction can be diagnosed when at least three addiction symptoms are endorsed and a clinically significant impairment or distress is present. Although the prevalence of food addiction diagnoses is increased in individuals with obesity and BED, recent studies which used the YFAS showed that there are also individuals with normal weight who can be classified as being ‘food addicted’. Based on self-reported eating disorder symptoms, women with current (n = 26) or remitted (n = 20) BN, and a control group of women matched for age and body mass index (n = 63) completed the YFAS and other measures. Results revealed that all patients with current BN received a food addiction diagnosis according to the YFAS while only six (30%) women with remitted BN did. None of the women in the control group received a food addiction diagnosis. Results provide support for the notion that BN can be described as addiction-like eating behaviour and suggest that food addiction most likely improves when BN symptoms remit. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.