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Compr Psychiatry. 1996 Sep-Oct;37(5):368-74.

Lifetime anxiety disorders in women with bulimia nervosa.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.


We examined the prevalence and ages at onset of additional childhood and adult psychiatric disorders in women with bulimia nervosa and evaluated the differential impact of a mood or anxiety disorder on the presentation of bulimia nervosa. One hundred fourteen women participating in a clinical trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy for bulimia nervosa were assessed at pretreatment with structured diagnostic methodology. Although mood disorders were the most frequently occurring additional psychiatric disorder (75%), 64% experienced an additional anxiety disorder. Age at onset of the anxiety disorders was markedly earlier than age at onset of bulimia nervosa or other comorbid conditions. Stratification of the sample on the presence of a mood or anxiety disorder revealed no differences in the core bulimic symptoms across groups. The presence of a mood disorder was associated with greater body dissatisfaction, lower Global Assessment of Functioning Scales (GAFS) score, more externalizing disorders of childhood, and, as expected, higher Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) scores. The presence of an anxiety disorder was related to a history of anorexia nervosa and earlier age at onset of drug or alcohol dependence. Early-onset anxiety disorders are prevalent and may represent one potential pathway to bulimia nervosa.

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