Comorbidity of Anorexic and Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors in Undergraduate Females
Type of DegreeDissertation
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The present study explored the behavioral and personality differences between individuals who manifest anorexic behaviors, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, both, or neither. A large literature base exists outlining the diagnostic comorbidity of anorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder in clinical populations, and several theories note the common constructs between the two disorders. Few researchers have studied non-clinical populations, or attempted to examine behavioral differences between these four groups. The purpose of this study was to identify significant differences in personality traits, offspring-reported parenting styles, psychopathology, and behavior between four groups: individuals with anorexic and obsessive-compulsive behaviors, individuals with one or the other, and those with neither. It was hypothesized that individuals with anorexic and obsessive-compulsive behaviors would report more severely disordered behaviors, more dysfunctional personality traits, higher levels of psychopathology, and less supportive and involved parents. Specific behavioral differences were also expected and outlined. Of primary interest were the ways in which individuals with anorexic and obsessive-compulsive traits differed from both those with just anorexic behaviors and those with just obsessive-compulsive behaviors. The results of this study supported the hypothesis that individuals with both sets of behaviors generally had the highest impairment. More specific hypotheses had varied levels of confirmation; the results supported some, but failed to support others. Notably, individuals who develop both behaviors differ from those with anorexic behaviors by being slightly less gregarious; by having parents that use fewer positive parenting techniques, less supervision, and corporal punishment; by having higher levels of general psychopathology; and by exhibiting a more severe, qualitatively different depression. They differ from those with just obsessive-compulsive behaviors by being more perfectionistic, self-conscious, vulnerable, depressive, and less gregarious; by having parents that are less involved, use fewer positive parenting techniques, less supervision, and other forms of discipline; and by having higher levels of general psychopathology, state anxiety, bulimic symptoms, difficulty with sexuality and social integration, and exhibiting a more severe, qualitatively different depression. Some potential explanations for the obtained results are considered, and ideas for future research are discussed.