Bulimia nervosa-nonpurging subtype: closer to the bulimia nervosa-purging subtype or to binge eating disorder?

Jennifer Jordan, Virginia V W McIntosh, Janet D Carter, Sarah Rowe, Kathryn Taylor, Christopher M A Frampton, Janice M McKenzie, Janet Latner, Peter R Joyce
International Journal of Eating Disorders 2014, 47 (3): 231-8

OBJECTIVE: DSM-5 has dropped subtyping of bulimia nervosa (BN), opting to continue inclusion of the somewhat contentious diagnosis of BN-nonpurging subtype (BN-NP) within a broad BN category. Some contend however that BN-NP is more like binge eating disorder (BED) than BN-P. This study examines clinical characteristics, eating disorder symptomatology, and Axis I comorbidity in BN-NP, BN-P, and BED groups to establish whether BN-NP more closely resembles BN-P or BED.

METHOD: Women with BN-P (n = 29), BN-NP (n = 29), and BED (n = 54) were assessed at baseline in an outpatient psychotherapy trial for those with binge eating. Measures included the Structured Clinical Interviews for DSM-IV, Eating Disorder Examination, and Eating Disorder Inventory-2.

RESULTS: The BN-NP subtype had BMIs between those with BN-P and BED. Both BN subtypes had higher Restraint and Drive for Thinness scores than BED. Body Dissatisfaction was highest in BN-NP and predicted BN-NP compared to BN-P. Higher Restraint and lower BMI predicted BN-NP relative to BED. BN-NP resembled BED with higher lifetime BMIs; and weight-loss clinic than eating disorder clinic attendances relative to the BN-P subtype. Psychiatric comorbidity was comparable except for higher lifetime cannabis use disorder in the BN-NP than BN-P subtype

DISCUSSION: These results suggest that BN-NP sits between BN-P and BED however the high distress driving inappropriate compensatory behaviors in BN-P requires specialist eating disorder treatment. These results support retaining the BN-NP group within the BN category. Further research is needed to determine whether there are meaningful differences in outcome over follow-up.

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