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How bulimia nervosa relates to addictive behavior


  • Daniela Iorio
  • Michelle Sovinsky


Using longitudinal data that tracks bulimic behavior among young girls (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study), we examine (1) whether bulimic behavior is consistent with addiction criteria as stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV (APA, 1994); and 2) whether the persistence in bulimia nervosa (BN) reflects tolerance formed from an addiction or if it can be attributed to slow learning about the deleterious health effects of BN. Making the case for treating BN as an addiction has important policy implications. First, it suggests that the timing of educational policy and treatment is crucial: preventive educational programs aimed at instructing girls about the deleterious health effects of BN, as well as treatment interventions, will be most effective if provided in the early stages. Second, it would put those exhibiting BN on more equal footing (from a treatment reimbursement perspective) with individuals with drug or alcohol addictions.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniela Iorio & Michelle Sovinsky, 2012. "How bulimia nervosa relates to addictive behavior," ECON - Working Papers 095, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:095

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michelle S. Goeree & John C. Ham & Daniela Iorio, 2009. "Caught in the bulimic trap? Persistence and state dependence of bulimia among young women," IEW - Working Papers 447, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich, revised Jul 2012.
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    More about this item


    Eating disorders; bulimia nervosa; addiction;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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