Eating Disorders and Their Relationship to Impulsivity

Jason M. Lavender*, James E. Mitchell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Impulsivity is a multi-faceted, personality-based construct that has been addressed in research on the etiology, maintenance, and treatment of eating disorders. There is substantial variability in eating disorder psychopathology in terms of physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral manifestations (e.g., body weight, presence or absence of weight and shape concerns, inhibited versus labile emotionality, and presence or absence of binge eating and purging). Historically, research on impulsivity in eating disorders has been primarily focused on individuals with bulimic-spectrum disorders (i.e., those involving binge eating and/or purging behaviors, including bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and binge eating/purging subtype of anorexia nervosa). Consistent with this variability across the spectrum of eating disorders, a wide variety of options, including psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, and diet/lifestyle modification, have been utilized in their treatment. Given limited existing data focused on impulsivity as a specific target in eating disorder treatments, we focus here on (a) defining the construct of impulsivity and discussing its conceptual relevance to eating disorders; (b) providing a brief overview of the empirical literature that has addressed the complex relationship between impulsivity and eating disorders, as well as noting areas requiring additional research; and (c) discussing treatment implications and considerations related to impulsivity and its association with eating disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-401
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Disordered eating
  • Impulsiveness
  • Negative urgency
  • Personality
  • Sensation seeking
  • Temperament


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