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Keywords:

  • anorexia nervosa;
  • bulimia nervosa;
  • eating disorders;
  • personality;
  • substance abuse

Aim:  To assess lifetime substance abuse, family history of alcohol abuse/dependence, and novelty seeking in three different eating disorder groups (anorexia nervosa–restrictive; anorexia nervosa–binge eating/purging; anorexia nervosa to bulimia nervosa).

Method:  A total sample of 371 eating disorder patients participated in the current study. Assessment measures included the prevalence of substance abuse and family history of alcohol abuse/dependence as well as the novelty-seeking subscale of the Temperament and Character Inventory–Revised.

Results:  Significant differences across groups were detected for lifetime substance abuse, with anorexia nervosa–restrictive individuals exhibiting a significant lower prevalence than the anorexia nervosa to bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa–binge eating/ purging patients (P < 0.01). For family history of alcohol abuse/dependence the same pattern was observed (P = 0.04). Novelty seeking was associated with substance abuse (P = 0.002), with the anorexia nervosa to bulimia nervosa group exhibiting significantly higher scores on the novelty-seeking scale than the other two groups (P < 0.001). But family history of alcohol abuse/dependence was not related to novelty seeking (P = 0.092).

Conclusion:  Lifetime substance abuse appears to be more prevalent in anorexia nervosa patients with bulimic features. Higher novelty-seeking scores may be associated with diagnosis cross-over.