Restricting, bingeing, and purging are powerful ways to regulate emotional states. However, these behaviours probably play different roles in emotional regulation. Whereas restriction is hypothesized to pre-empt the onset of highly emotional states, bingeing and purging is thought to act as a coping mechanism to deal with overwhelming emotional states once they’ve already been activated.
In BN there is abundant evidence that the binge–purge cycle functions as a means of emotion regulation. Binging [and I would arguing purging too! ] facilitates a temporary suppression of painful self-awareness and helps the self to dissociate from painful emotions or to block negative affect as demonstrated in both laboratory studies and diary studies in daily life.
In AN, restrictive eating patterns have been linked with a narrowing of emotional functioning, flattening of affect and lack of outward display of emotion. As such, Waller, Kennerley, and Ohanian (2007) argue that both binge– vomit-cycle and
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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is 3-5 times more prevalent in individuals with bulimia nervosa (BN) than those without (Dansky et al., 1997). However, the relationship between PTSD and BN–in particular, how PTSD might affect or moderate bulimic symptoms–remains largely unexplored. In a recent study, Trisha Karr and colleagues followed 119 women (20 with PTSD and BN, and 99 with BN only) for a 2 week period to investigate whether participants with comorbid PTSD + BN differed from those with BN only on the:
- Levels of negative affect (negative emotional state/mood) and affect variability (fluctuation between negative and positive states)
- Frequency of bulimic behaviours
- Relationship between emotional states (negative or positive affect) and bulimic behaviours
They used the ecological momentary assessment (EMA) tool to track behaviours and emotional states close to when they occur. I’ve blogged about a study using EMA before (‘What’s The Point of Bingeing/Purging? And Why … Continue reading →
I defended my MSc on Tuesday and I’m not going to lie: I was pretty symptomatic with bulimia in the days prior to my defence. As I explained to my boyfriend: the anxiety-reducing effects of purging are so powerful, and the compulsion to binge and purge (when I’m stressed/anxious/”not okay”) is so strong that it is much easier to do it, get it over with, and continue working (in a much calmer state).
I’ve mentioned before, for me, purging is very anxiety-reducing and in some ways, almost a positive experience. It is so tightly coupled with bingeing that it is hard to separate the two, but the anxiety-reducing effects are strongest when I binge and purge, non-existent when I binge, and weak when I purge a normal meal (which is exceptionally rare/almost never.)
It turns out, of course, that I’m not alone.
Negative emotional states and stressors have long been … Continue reading →
I see this on a daily basis: patients with subthreshold eating disorders feeling invalidated and “not sick enough.” They are struggling so much, but maybe they still have their periods, or maybe their weight isn’t quite low enough, and so they often (but not always, thankfully) get dismissed by doctors, other healthcare professionals, and insurance companies. Do you think you really need this treatment, maybe you can just focus on eating healthier? You know you are not fat, you are perfectly healthy! Just be happy! Or, Sorry, we can’t cover this psychological treatment because you don’t fit the full diagnostic criteria.
Why do we draw a line between ‘threshold’ and ‘subthreshold’ at arbitrary numerical criteria?
No doubt numbers are important for medical treatment: someone with a very low BMI might have considerably more physical complications that need to be taken into account during treatment than someone with a not-so-low … Continue reading →