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An examination of bulimic tendencies and addictive pathology in female college students

David Ian Stember, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Over the years, research has examined the relationship between bulimic and addictive pathology. Although some findings have suggested that bulimia nervosa may have an addictive component, this assertion remains controversial. The present study focuses on the relationship between addictive correlates and bulimic symptom tendencies. It suggests that when eating disordered tendencies are analyzed, bulimic symptoms may be uniquely related to addictive pathology. Two hundred and thirteen female college students (age 17–43) were recruited from introductory college courses at a large mid-western university. Subjects completed the following questionnaires: a Demographic Questionnaire, the Eating Disorder Inventory-II (EDI-II), the Eating Disorder Symptom Checklist (EDI-SC) and the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory-3 (SASSI-3). The present study represents the first time the SASSI-3 has been used to explore the relationship between eating disordered tendencies and addictive behavior. Overall, results provided strong support for the assertion that bulimic style symptoms may be related to addictive pathology. The SASSI-3's Obvious Attitudes Test (OAT), Correctional scale (COR), Symptoms of Substance Abuse (SYM), Face Valid Alcohol (FVA), Defensiveness scale (DEF), and Family (FAM) scale all bore significant relationships to the EDI-2's Bulimia scale (p ≤ .01). Furthermore, OAT, COR, SYM, FVA, DEF, and FAM did not significantly relate to the EDI-II's Drive for Thinness and Body Dissatisfaction scales once Bulimia was controlled for. When individual symptom tendencies were analyzed, results were strongly supportive of the hypothesized relationships. A past episode of binge behavior was significantly related to OAT, COR, and SYM score (p ≤ .01), but was not a significant predictor of FVA. A past episode of purge behavior was found to be significantly related to OAT, COR, SYM, and FVA scores (p ≤ .01). In contrast, three month loss of menses, amount and duration of exercise, and Body Mass Index (BMI) bore no significant relationship to the SASSI-3's OAT, COR, SYM, or FVA scales. Results suggest that bulimic symptoms may have an addictive component that is not shared by other eating disordered tendencies. Implications for treatment, diagnostic classification, and future research are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical|Psychology, Physiological

Recommended Citation

Stember, David Ian, "An examination of bulimic tendencies and addictive pathology in female college students" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9984941.