Objective: To inform the classification of bulimic-type eating disorders, the correlates of purging and non-purging methods of weight control were examined in a large community sample of young adult women reporting recurrent episodes of binge eating.
Method: Scores on self-report measures of eating disorder psychopathology, functional impairment and health-service utilization were compared among individuals who reported (recurrent episodes of binge eating and) the use of either purging (self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic misuse; n = 41) or non-purging (extreme dietary restriction, excessive exercise, or use of diet pills; n = 62) methods of weight control. Individuals who reported recurrent binge eating in the absence of extreme weight control behaviours (n = 442) were also included in the analysis.
Results: Non-purgers tended to be younger and heavier and have higher levels of eating disorder psychopathology and functional impairment than purgers and non-compensating binge eaters, however these differences were not statistically significant. Purgers were more likely than non-purgers to have sought treatment specifically for a problem with eating, however this difference was no longer significant after age and body mass index were statistically controlled. In multivariate analysis, frequency of extreme dietary restriction was the best predictor of functional impairment.
Conclusions: These findings call into question the validity of subtyping of bulimia nervosa into purging and non-purging forms as outlined in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.