A review of the definitions of outcome used in the treatment of bulimia nervosa

Sarah Williams, Thomas Watts, Tracey Wade

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    37 Citations (Scopus)


    There are many terms used to describe treatment outcome for bulimia nervosa. However, the way such terms are conceptualised across various studies differs dramatically, making comparison of outcomes difficult. A consensus working definition of pivotal terms such as remission and recovery is important if treatments are to be adequately evaluated and clinical meaning derived for individuals with bulimia nervosa (BN). The central aim of the current review was to identify different definitions of remission and recovery and their utility in terms of client outcome after treatment for BN. Seventy one unique published treatment studies were identified that used 82 different outcome measures, of which 63 (77%) used behavioural outcomes only, with the most commonly used outcome (n = 7 studies) being an abstinence of bingeing and vomiting for a 4. week period. The problems with the definitions of outcomes used to date are explored, and the implications of research in anorexia nervosa for forming consensus definitions of remission and recovery for BN will be examined. In addition, the review highlights the importance of considering the relationship between quality of life and outcome in assessing the "goodness of fit" of a definition of outcome.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)292-300
    Number of pages9
    JournalClinical Psychology Review
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


    • Bulimia nervosa
    • Quality of life
    • Treatment outcome


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