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Eat Disord. 2005 Jan-Feb;13(1):61-70.

The relationship between temperament and impulsive behaviors in eating disordered subjects.

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  • 1University of Padova, Padova, Italy.


To date, few studies have examined the personality characteristics and clinical predictors of impulsive behaviors in eating disorders (ED). The aim of this work was to study the prevalence of a wide range of impulsive behaviors in a sample of 554 ED subjects and to examine the predictors of these behaviors. Subjects were diagnosed according to DSM-IV criteria as having anorexia nervosa restricting type (ANR; n = 183), anorexia nervosa binge eating/purging type (ANBP; n = 65), bulimia nervosa purging type (BNP; n = 244), and bulimia nervosa nonpurging type (BNNP; n = 62). Nine different types of impulsive behaviors were assessed in these groups. About 55% of the whole sample reported at least one type of impulsive behavior, 35% more than one, and about 13% more than three. According to findings, impulsive and multi-impulsive subjects are characterized by the presence of purging behavior and by specific temperamental features such as high levels of novelty seeking and low persistence. The prediction of impulsive behavior is further improved by considering the presence of a history of childhood abuse, maternal psychiatric morbidity, and some specific psychological symptoms such as maturity fears, perfectionism, depression, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. The presence of impulsive behavior appears to be associated with overall higher levels of psychiatric symptomatology and eating psychopathology, thus indicating that they are an important feature to be considered in the assessment and treatment of ED.

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