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Posted 07.13.05
 
 
   

MU Professor Develops Model to Predict Bulimia

COLUMBIA, MO -- There is no single cause for eating disorders, which affect about 8 million Americans. A variety of biological, social and psychological factors that include personality, family problems, genetics and media portrayals of the ideal body type, can all contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Now, a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher has developed a new model that successfully predicts eating disorders, specifically bulimia.

Anna Bardone-Cone, MU assistant professor of psychology, used a model composed of three factors--perfectionism, perceived weight status and self-efficacy--to predict symptoms of bulimia in 406 women ages 17 to 25. The model successfully predicted binge eating habits, an important component of bulimia.

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Study participants completed a survey measuring their self-efficacy, perfectionism and perceived weight status at the beginning of an eleven-week period. Then, participants completed weekly surveys detailing their binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behavior habits, such as vomiting, laxative use or fasting.

"In particular, women high in perfectionism who felt they were overweight and who had low self-efficacy reported the most number of weeks of binge eating," Bardone-Cone said. "For individuals with high standards but low confidence in their abilities who experience an appearance ego threat, for example feeling overweight, the resulting emotional distress may motivate them to feel better immediately. They may expect to find, at least temporary, relief from their bad feelings in eating."

Bardone-Cone believes the model contributes to a more complex understanding of bulimic tendencies and has important implications for the treatment of the disorder.

"This model suggests that altering any of the three variables will alter the outcome, meaning that reducing perfectionism, decreasing body dissatisfaction or increasing self-efficacy ought to reduce binge eating," Bardone-Cone said.

The study was produced in collaboration with Lyn Abramson, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Kathleen Vohs, University of British Columbia; Todd Heatherton, Dartmouth College; and Thomas Joiner, Florida State University. It will be published in Behaviour Research and Therapy.

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