Personality subtyping and bulimia nervosa: Psychopathological and genetic correlates

Stephen A. Wonderlich, Ross D. Crosby, Thomas Joiner, Carol B. Peterson, Anna Bardone-Cone, Marjorie Klein, Scott Crow, James E. Mitchell, Daniel Le Grange, Howard Steiger, Greg Kolden, Frank Johnson, Suzanne Vrshek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Background. There is empirical evidence suggesting that individuals with bulimia nervosa vary considerably in terms of psychiatric co-morbidity and personality functioning. In this study, latent profile analysis was used to attempt to identify clusters of bulimic subjects based on psychiatric co-morbidity and personality. Method. A total of 178 women with bulimia nervosa or a subclinical variant of bulimia nervosa completed a series of self-report inventories of co-morbid psychopathology and personality, and also provided a buccal smear sample for genetic analyses. Results. Three clusters of bulimic women were identified: an affective-perfectionistic cluster, an impulsive cluster, and a low co-morbid psychopathology cluster. The clusters showed expected differences on external validation tests with both personality and eating-disorder measures. The impulsive cluster showed the highest elevations on dissocial behavior and the lowest scores on compulsivity, while the affective-perfectionistic cluster showed the highest levels of eating-disorder symptoms. The clusters did not differ on genetic variations of the serotonin transporter gene. Conclusions. This study corroborates previous findings suggesting that the bulimia nervosa diagnostic category is comprised of three classes of individuals based on co-morbid psychopathology and personality. These differences may have significant etiological and treatment implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-657
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005

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