When most people think of bulimia nervosa, they think of binge eating and self-induced vomiting. While that is not incorrect, it is not the full picture either. In the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), there are two subtypes of bulimia nervosa: purging (BN-P) and nonpurging (BN-NP). The difference lies in the types of compensation methods: patients with BN-P engage in self-induced vomiting, or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas whereas patients with BN-NP use fasting or excessive exercise to compensate for binge eating.
How common in BN-NP? It is very hard to say. A small population-based study in Finland (less than 3,000 participants) found that 1.7% of the sample that bulimia nervosa, 24% had BN-NP (or 0.4% of the entire sample) (Keski-Rahkonen et al., 2009). (I couldn’t find much else on prevalence of BN-NP.)
Unfortunately, however, there’s been very little research on BN-NP.
So little, in fact, that many have wondered if it make sense to subtype bulimia nervosa patients into purging and nonpurging groups? And are there differences between patients …
Anonymous asked, “I’ve never lost my period. Weight restored I am naturally thin, but even at a BMI of 15 or so I always got my period (although it wasn’t always regularly). This makes me feel like I’m not actually sick because I hear about everyone losing their period.”
eatruncats replied: “To the anon who asked about losing periods: For all the times she worries about not being sick enough because she never lost her period, there are people who lost their periods at BMIs of 18, 19, and 20 who worry about not being sick enough because they never got to a BMI of 15. If you have an eating disorder, you are “sick enough.” Period.“
As it stands now, amenorrhea–or the loss of three consecutive menstrual cycles–is a diagnostic criterion for anorexia nervosa. Individuals who have not lost their periods are diagnosed with eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). A problematic catch-all diagnosis that makes up the majority of those diagnosed with eating disorders. I’ve discussed some of the problems with the EDNOS diagnosis elsewhere…
It is a relatively well known fact that eating disorders have a high relapse rate and many people, myself included, find themselves in multiple intensive – residential, inpatient, even partial hospitalization – treatments. One may ask if such intensive treatments really work or if long term intensive care is just a band-aid of sorts. I know I’ve had to ask myself, “why is this going to work this time when it hasn’t worked in the long run before.”
There is even debate in the field on whether residential treatment actually has evidence supporting its effectiveness (see Tetyana’s post here). I can speak from experience that the various intensive treatments I’ve personally done have saved my life and given me more perspective, skills training, and support than I could have had otherwise. However, despite having made significant changes, I’ve had more than my share of slips and relapses.
I am willing to bet I’m not alone.
Maintaining change after intensive treatment is a little-discussed topic. (Although it’s pretty important, I think. I mean, making the changes is difficult, but …
A really fun aspect of blogging is seeing what search terms lead people to my blog; a frustrating side-effect is not being able to interact with those people directly. This entry is, in part, an attempt to answer a common question that leads individuals to my blog. Common question or search queries are variants of the following (these are actual search terms that led to this blog, I corrected spelling mistakes): “do models cause eating disorders in women?”, “pictures of skinny models linked to eating disorders”, “do the images of models in magazines cause eating disorders?”, “eating disorders relating to thin models”, “psychiatrists thought on how skinny models are causing eating disorders”, “thin models are to blame for eating disorder.”
Well, you get the point.
I briefly started tackling the notions that the “thin ideal” promoted by Western media is to blame for the prevalence of eating disorders and a related idea that all anorexics are afraid of becoming fat, in a previous post where I examined case studies of eating disorders in (mostly congenitally) blind women.
These assumptions, along …
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) category. ED-NOS is a diagnostic category for all individuals with subthreshold anorexia or bulimia nervosa or those with a mix of symptoms that don’t fit neatly into AN or BN. ED-NOS is essentially everything else. A mixed bag, if you will. It doesn’t tell the clinician nor the researcher anything useful, outside of what it isn’t. So, is there any use for it? If it doesn’t tell the clinician about patient symptoms or guide choice of treatment, why even bother? Does it help researchers understand EDs or do they just want to avoid this messy and heterogenous group (that by the way makes up most of those with eating disorders)? In this entry (and many more to come), I want to further explore these questions.
There’s been a push by researchers to minimize the amount of people who fall into this category. This has namely been done by loosening the criteria for anorexia and bulimia diagnoses for the next edition of the Diagnostic and …
This study is a follow up on the previous study (last entry) which examined the problems with the EDNOS classification, the frequency of transitions between eating disorders and how the DSM should be changed to reflect the clinical reality of eating disorders (and what is the clinical reality?)
In this study, Eddy and colleagues followed 246 women who were initially diagnosed with either AN or BN, for an average of 9 years. The main goal was to study the growing disparity between (1) the consensus that eating disorders are not stable overtime and how (2) the current diagnostic criteria which do not adequately address this, by following the clinical presentation of EDs overtime and providing suggestions for the upcoming DSM-V.
EDNOS is an often ignored category in research–in main part because it is difficult to study such a heterogeneous group. Nonetheless, Eddy et al. summarize some interesting findings on diagnostic crossovers and subthreshold EDs:
- No substantial differences between full-blown and subthreshold (EDNOS) syndromes
- Majority of EDNOS patients have a history of a full-syndrome (82%, Herzog et al. 1993)
Eating disorders are rarely static. Symptoms fluctuate, waxing and waning as circumstances change. Often, these fluctuations lead to diagnostic crossover–between subtypes of one disorder or to a different eating disorder altogether. The heterogeneity of symptom severity and frequency led to the establishment of the “eating disorder not otherwise specified” diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Essentially, it is everything that doesn’t quite fit into the “anorexia nervosa” or “bulimia nervosa” categories. (For example, I would guess that it is a common diagnosis for patients who fail to meet the “amenorrhea” criterion for the AN diagnosis.)
ED-NOS is a category for everything that doesn’t conform to some rather arbitrary criteria required for bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, meaning: it is the diagnosis for a lot of people. Okay, that’s not very scientific, I know, but I wouldn’t trust these numbers anyway–usually people who fall into this category don’t feel “sick enough” to seek treatment, in the USA they have difficulty getting treatment coverage, and many just don’t think they have a problem (and nor do those around them). …