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Physiol Behav. 2011 Oct 24;104(5):770-7. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.07.013. Epub 2011 Aug 4.

Psychophysiological responses to idiosyncratic stress in bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

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University of Fribourg, Department of Psychology, Rue P.-A. de Faucigny 2, 1700 Fribourg, Switzerland.


This study examined psychophysiological stress responses to idiosyncratically relevant stress in bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED), in relation to autonomic cardiac control and nutritional status. A total of 81 women with BN, BED and healthy controls (HC) took part in an in sensu exposure to idiosyncratic stress. Psychological and peripheral physiological parameters were measured, and tonic heart rate variability, nutritional status, and types of stress were determined. In response to stress exposure, both eating disordered groups showed a stronger reactivity of sadness, and the BED group showed a stronger reactivity of insecurity than the HC group. Desire to binge was increased in the context of interpersonal stress. Stress exposure led to increased cardiovascular activity and reduced electrodermal activity that did not differ by group. The BN-specific symptomatology moderated the association between autonomic cardiac control and psychophysiological stress responses. The results suggest common and specific psychophysiological processes in symptom maintenance through life stress in BN and BED.

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