Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Studies showing high rates of alcohol and drug misuse and deliberate self-harm in bulimia nervosa have led some authors to call for a distinct diagnostic subgroup, sometimes termed "multi-impulsive bulimia". However, these studies have been uncontrolled and of clinic samples and may be subject to sampling bias. METHOD: One hundred and two women with DSM-III-R bulimia nervosa were compared with 204 normal controls and 102 controls with other psychiatric disorders, all recruited from the same community sample. Interview measures were used for diagnosis and for the assessment of alcohol and drug misuse and deliberate self-harm. RESULTS: Bulimia nervosa cases did not differ from either of the control groups in terms of current alcohol consumption. Bulimia nervosa cases used more illicit drugs than either control group, but loss of control over drug use was very uncommon. Bulimia nervosa cases had a higher rate of deliberate self-harm than the controls. Only six (6%) bulimia nervosa cases had two or more of these behaviours concurrently. CONCLUSION: Sampling bias is present in clinic-based studies of comorbidity in bulimia nervosa. Those with comorbid substance misuse and deliberate self-harm are probably heterogeneous in character, and their classification as a subgroup would therefore be premature.


Journal article


Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date





451 - 458


Adolescent, Adult, Alcoholism, Bulimia, Comorbidity, Diagnosis, Dual (Psychiatry), England, Female, Humans, Impulsive Behavior, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Psychotropic Drugs, Self-Injurious Behavior, Street Drugs, Substance-Related Disorders