Bulimic Symptomatology in College Women: To What Degree are Hypnotizability, Dissociation, and Absorption of Relevance?

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Virginia Tech

Bulimia is often viewed as an extreme expression of eating concerns and body image disturbances that afflicts many adolescent and adult women. The cognitive strategies employed by individuals to inhibit eating and facilitate bingeing and purging are thought to include disattending internal sensations of hunger and satiety while sustaining attention on food, distorted beliefs, and interoceptive experiences (e.g., Heatherton & Baumeister, 1991). To the extent that these attentional and perceptual shifts mediate bulimic symptomatology, individuals with bulimic tendencies should exhibit certain cognitive attributes. Because hypnotizability, dissociation, and absorption have each been invoked (either directly or indirectly) as explanatory constructs for clinical and subclinical bulimia, the present study evaluated the absolute and relative effects of these factors on bulimic symptomatology in a large sample of undergraduate women (N = 309) using structural equation modeling. Following 2 assessments of hypnotic susceptibility (Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A [Shor & Orne, 1962] & Group Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale, Form C [Crawford & Allen, 1982]), participants completed measures of eating disorder symptomatology (Eating Disorders Inventory-2 [Garner, 1991]; Three Factor Eating Questionnaire [Stunkard & Messick, 1985]), dissociation (Dissociative Experiences Scale [Carlson & Putnam, 1986]; Dissociation Questionnaire [Vanderlinden et al., 1993]), and absorption (Tellegen Absorption Scale [Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974]; Differential Attentional Processes Inventory [Crawford, Brown, & Moon, 1993; Grumbles & Crawford, 1981]). A final model including the latent constructs Hypnotizability, Dissociation, Absorption, and Bulimic Symptomatology provided a very good fit to the data (X 2 (58, N = 309) = 31.09, NFI = .932, CFI = .967, & RMSEA = .053). As hypothesized, dissociation was found to a have moderate effect (Standardized coefficient = .32, p < .01) on Bulimic Symptomatology when controlling for Hypnotizability and Absorption. Moreover, contrary to past research, the path between Hypnotizability and Bulimic Symptomatology and the path between Absorption and Bulimic Symptomatology were not significant. Based on these finding, we can now speak with increased confidence of a meaningful link between dissociation and the continuum of bulimic symptomatology. A pathological dissociative style appears to contribute to the development of bulimia.

Structural Equation Modeling, Absorption, Hypnosis, Dissociation, Bulimia