Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Recent work pertaining to bulimia has shown that bulimics tend to perceive themselves as having a decreased ability to control their environments, particularly when faced with a stressful situation. Results from studies examining the type or amount of stress experienced by bulimics have been inconsistent. The transactional model of stress, which calls for the examination of an individual's appraisal of a situation, provides a more advanced method of measuring stress than has generally been used in past studies.

The present study sought to examine bulimics' perceptions of control in stressful and nonstressful situations using an in vivo behavioral task, Thirty female undergraduate bulimics and thirty noneating-oisordered controls engaged in a 40 trial contingency-learning task in which they estimated the amount of control they could exert. Half of the subjects were placed in a stressful condition, which involved a statement linking their performance with their intellectual functioning.

The results of the study failed to demonstrate that bulimics perceived themselves as having less control than the noneating-disordered control subjects. However, this study was unable to address whether the stress could elicit differences in the appraisal of control as the stress manipulations proved unsuccessful. This study did find, however, that for bulimic subjects, increases in amount of behavioral involvement (i.e., button-pressing) did not result in increases in perceived control, as was the case for the noneating-disordered control subjects. These results are interpreted within a learned helplessness framework as suggesting that bulimics may not view themselves as being able to exert control over their lives, regardless of the amount of effort they exert.