August 28, 2006

Marriage, cohabitation may reduce bulimia symptoms

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Young women with bulimia may
find their symptoms diminish after they get married or move in
with a partner, but that doesn't mean the eating disorder is
cured, new research suggests.

In a study that followed a group of Norwegian teenagers for
5 years, researchers found that for young women with bulimia,
their most serious problems -- bingeing and purging -- tended
to wane once they were living with a boyfriend or husband.

However, they generally remained dissatisfied with their
appearance, and cohabitation did not stop women from taking
more discreet, but still unhealthy, measures to control their
weight, like using diet pills or laxatives.

The findings suggest that women will limit the most
"socially unacceptable" symptoms of bulimia once they live with
a partner, according to the study authors, Tilmann von Soest of
Norwegian Social Research in Oslo and Lars Wichstrom of the
Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Their study, reported in the International Journal of
Eating Disorders, included 2,600 young men and women who were
followed for 5 years, starting in high school. Among female
students who had bulimia symptoms at the outset, those who
subsequently moved in with a partner reported a drop in
binge-eating and vomiting.

They did not, however, show an improvement in standard
measures of self-esteem or body satisfaction.

Instead, the team writes, it may be the mere presence of
another person in the home that makes the difference. It's
simply more difficult, they note, for bulimics to take the most
visible and extreme measures that mark the disorder.

Though cohabitation did not eliminate women's struggle with
bulimia, understanding the social forces that affect their
symptoms could aid in treating the eating disorder, the
researchers conclude.

SOURCE: International Journal of Eating Disorders,
September 2006.