Objective and subjective bulimic episodes in the classification of bulimic-type eating disorders: another nail in the coffin of a problematic distinction
Mond, JM and Latner, JD and Hay, PH and Owen, C and Rodgers, B, Objective and subjective bulimic episodes in the classification of bulimic-type eating disorders: another nail in the coffin of a problematic distinction, Behaviour research and therapy, 48, (7) pp. 661-669. ISSN 0005-7967 (2010) [Refereed Article]
We sought to further explore the validity of the distinction between objective bulimic episodes (OBEs) and subjective bulimic episodes (SBEs) in the study of bulimic-type eating disorders. Drawing on data obtained at the second, interview phase of a large-scale epidemiological study, we identified mutually exclusive subgroups of women with bulimic-type eating disorders who engaged in regular OBEs but not SBEs (n = 37) or regular SBEs but not OBEs (n = 52). These subgroups were compared on a wide range of outcomes, including socio-demographic characteristics, current levels of eating disorder psychopathology, general psychological distress and impairment in role functioning, current and lifetime impairment in quality of life specifically associated with an eating problem, (self)-recognition of an eating problem, health service utilization and use of psychotropic medication. The only difference between groups was that participants who reported regular OBEs were heavier than those who reported regular SBEs. The findings converge with those of previous research in suggesting that bulimic-type eating disorders characterized by regular SBEs, but not OBEs, do not differ in any clinically meaningful way from those characterized by regular OBEs, but not SBEs. Inclusion of bulimic-type eating disorders characterized by regular SBEs as a provisional category requiring further research in DSM-V appears warranted.