Paula Moyer, MA

May 23, 2006

May 23, 2006 (Toronto) — Even after bulimia is in remission and normal eating has resumed, patients can continue to have symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to investigators who presented their findings here at the 159th annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

"These findings add to the literature that shows that the [OCD] symptoms present in people with bulimia persist after remission," said principal investigator Jessica C. Morgan, MD, at her presentation. "Therefore, elevated OC ratings may be a persistent trait characteristic of individuals who develop bulimia." Dr. Morgan is a resident in child and adolescent psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Dr. Morgan and coinvestigators conducted the study because the literature had shown that obsessive and compulsive behaviors existed comorbidly alongside the primary symptoms of bulimia nervosa. Therefore, they compared the levels of OC characteristics in individuals with bulimia nervosa and in healthy controls. The investigators used patient self-ratings on the Maudsley Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory (MOCI) at baseline and whether patients continued to have elevated MOCI scores after normal eating behavior was restored.

The investigators were able to obtain MOCI scores for 77 medication-free, normal-weight women, 25 of whom had active bulimia nervosa, 21 were in recovery, and 28 were healthy controls. The women had participated in previous studies of neurotransmitter function. The subjects also completed the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT) and the Spielberger Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), which respectively tested for disordered eating attitudes and for the possibility of an anxiety disorder.

The MOCI scores for patients in the bulimia group averaged 5.4 ± 4.4, which was significantly higher than the scores for the control group, which averaged 2.5 ± 1.9 (P < .02). Of particular interest were the MOCI scores for women recovering from bulimia, which averaged 5.5 ± 5.4. These scores were similar to the values for the patients with active bulimia and were, therefore, also elevated compared with control subjects (P < .05). Although the recovering subjects' scores on EAT and STAI were significantly lower than the scores for those with active disease, they were still significantly higher than for those in the control group (P < .01 for each).

The study was supported in part by a grant from the United States Public Health Services.

APA 159th Annual Meeting: Abstract NR101. Presented May 22, 2006.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Saenger, PhD

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