The correlates of self-induced vomiting and laxative misuse were examined in a large community sample of young adult women (N = 5255). Scores on measures of eating disorder psychopathology, general psychological distress, functional impairment, as well as the use of health services for an eating or weight problem were compared among participants who reported regular self-induced vomiting, but not laxative misuse (N = 59), and those who reported regular misuse of laxatives, but not vomiting (N = 39). Individuals who misused laxatives were older, perceived poorer physical health, and were less likely to have sought treatment specifically for a problem with eating than those who engaged in self-induced vomiting. In all other respects, the groups were similar. However, individuals who regularly engaged in both forms of purging (N = 8) had particularly high levels of eating disorder and comorbid psychopathology. The perception among women of normal weight that only syndromes involving the use of self-induced vomiting constitute an eating disorder may need to be addressed in prevention programs. The combination of self-induced vomiting and laxative misuse may indicate a particularly severe psychiatric disturbance.
*Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, 120 8th St. South, Fargo, North Dakota 58103; †Discipline of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia; ‡National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia; and §Medical Education Unit, Medical School, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
Supported by grants from the Canberra Hospital Private Practice Fund, ACT Department of Health and Community Care, and ACT Mental Health Services.
Send reprint requests to Jonathan Mond, PhD, Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, 700 First Avenue South, Fargo, ND 58103.