The origin and course of eating disorders constitute a multifactorial etiopathology. This is why it is important to consider the psychological, developmental, biological and socio - cultural evaluation of each patient. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual DSM IV - TR (APA, 1994) distinguishes two main eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Together with them are described a broad and heterogeneous category (EDNOS) of "atypical eating disorders," that is a clinically significant eating disorder, but that does not meet all the diagnostic criteria for Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa. The aim of this pilot study was to analyze the differences detectable in anorexic and bulimic patients in relation to several factors of mental functioning, particularly with respect to the presence of distinctive characteristics and symptoms and the associated substrate personality.
20 patients with eating disorders who have a residential rehabilitation program, all women, 10 diagnosed with AN aged between 18 years and 31 years, including (5 Restrictive and 5 with Purging) and 10 diagnosed with BN aged between 19 years and 31 years (including 5 with Purging).
The pictures of AN and BN can be placed within a continuum of symptoms that distinguishes them exclusively for the presence or absence of bulimic episodes; also the symptom of bulaemia can be considered a most important aspect in the distinction between anorexia and bulimia as all other aspects of mental functioning appear to be similar in almost direct measurement, and finally some food pathological events are associated with personality characteristics, Axis I symptoms and quality of life, linked to specific types of global functioning.
Some symptoms may have different functions depending on the patient's personality style: a patient may develop a symptom of anorexia because it is competitive and a perfectionist, another as a form of self-punishment or as a strategy to regulate the feeling of being out of control, another again as a phenotypic expression of an underlying mood disorder, in the same way the purging may represent a reaction for a patient who is emotionally dysregulated or a measure of weight control which is more deliberate for a patient who is highly controlled perfectionist.
There is a need to look at eating disorders within a global view of mental functioning, these conditions may be considered "diagnostic trans', ie disturbances traveling along a continuum, and are therefore characterized by a "diagnostic migration."