Bulimic teens also likely to suffer from depression

December 07, 2004

COLLEGE STATION, Dec. 7, 2004 - Teen-agers suffering from bulimia may in fact be fighting a two-front war, coping with the effects of a devastating eating disorder while struggling with a chronic form of depression, reveals research by Texas A&M University psychologist Marisol Perez, who says the finding has critical implications for the way the disorder is treated.

Often masked by the bulimia itself, dysthymia - a lower-level, chronic form of depression - is often present in bulimics and may even predispose them to the eating disorder, shows the research by Perez and her colleagues Thomas E. Joiner Jr. of Florida State University and Peter M. Lewinsohn of the Oregon Research Institute.

Dysthymia, Perez explains, is different from the more familiar major depression in terms of its duration, severity and persistence of mood disturbance, all factors that can impact the course and treatment of eating disorders.

"As pernicious as major depression can be, it tends to remit, even if untreated," she notes. "By contrast, dysthymia is unrelenting, often lasting decades, with the average episode length lasting more than 10 years."

It's this long-lasting nature, Perez says, that makes dysthymia, rather than major depression, more likely to be associated with bulimia, which is characterized by unrelenting negative feelings about one's self.

Bulimics, she says, tend to have chronic low self-esteem. Previous models, she notes, have proposed that high perfectionism when dashed by low self-worth is predictive of bulimia. Because of this, the chronic and pervasive self-esteem problems associated with dysthymia may make dysthymic people vulnerable to bulimia, she says.

The relationship between bulimia and dysthymia might be the struggle to regulate unrelenting negative moods stemming from the depression and the feelings of low self-esteem associated with the eating disorder, Perez speculates.

Individuals who suffer from simultaneously existing disorders, such as bulimia and dysthymia, usually have a worse course and prognosis in treatment than those who only suffer from one disorder, Perez says. She believes that her findings can provide additional information to create more focused and effective treatments for teens with bulimia. Knowledge of the co-existence of bulimia and dysthymia in teens can help therapists assess specifically for dysthymia in bulimic patients and choose a treatment that will combat both disorders, she says.

Perez says that it is possible for adults to suffer from both disorders, but she notes that the patterns between bulimia and dysthymia may change from adolescence to adulthood, making major depression more likely to co-exist in adults than dysthymia.

She reasons that as the course of bulimia progresses, the social support network and resources of a bulimic person may start to diminish, making negative life events harder to overcome. The binges and purges that serve as a type of coping mechanism in the beginning of the disorder may, over time, lose their comforting aspects while their harmful ones continue to be amplified. This, in turn, may cause the intensity of the depression to increase, making the occurrence of major depression and bulimia more common in adults, she says.
-end-
Contact: Marisol Perez at 979-458-0168 or via email: perez@psyc.tamu.edu or Ryan A. Garcia at 979-845-4680 or via email: rag@univrel.tamu.edu.

Texas A&M University

Related Depression Articles from Brightsurf:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.

Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.

Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.

Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Read More: Depression News and Depression Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.