University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


Bulimia Nervosa (BN) is an eating disorder that is characterized by recurrent cycles of binge eating and compensatory behaviors (e.g. purging). Individuals suffering from BN usually report feeling anxious or depressed before the onset of their eating problems, and disordered eating may represent an attempt to cope with negative emotion. The anxiety associated with BN may arise from several pathways including body dissatisfaction, idealized images of thinness, and negative life events (Polivy & Herman, 2002). There are also other factors that contribute to the development of BN including difficulties with emotion regulation (e.g. alexithymia). We propose that certain individuals are vulnerable to developing BN because they possess the “Looming Cognitive Style”, a maladaptive cognitive style which places them at risk for heightened anxiety, emotion dysregulation, and subsequent disordered eating. The Looming Cognitive Style (LCS) is a type of cognitive vulnerability to anxiety that causes individuals to mentally represent potential threat in a systematically biased manner. In the present study, the effects of the LCS on BN were examined over a three-month time period within the context a diathesis-stress model. We propose that the LCS will be moderated by negative life events, anxious symptoms, emotion dysregulation, and a stimulus specific type of looming vulnerability (Looming of Fat) to produce residual changes in bulimic symptoms over time. We also examined the relationships between the LCS, anxious and depressive symptoms, emotion dysregulation, body dissatisfaction, and bulimic symptoms, as well as the variables Looming of Fat, emotion dysregulation, negative life events, body dissatisfaction and bulimic symptom. Results indicated that individuals with high levels of the LCS, increased negative life events, and anxious symptoms experience the greatest gains in bulimic symptoms.