This study investigated further the ‘escape’ hypothesis of bulimia and compared the processing of ‘threat’ information in control, anorexic and bulimic women. Using a novel information-processing task, five types of non-eating ‘threat’ (autonomy, sociotropy, discomfort anxiety, ego threat from others and ego threat from self) were addressed. The women did not differ in response time taken to identify ‘threat’ information, although there was support for the ‘escape’ hypothesis of bulimia. Specific non-eating ‘threat’ information appeared relevant to both anorexia and bulimia nervosa, suggesting the potential value of addressing general threat schemata in clinical practice. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.