Dissociation : Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 018-027 : The binge-purge cycle as a means of dissociation: somatic trauma and somatic defense in sexual abuse and bulimia
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The relationship between childhood sexual abuse, dissociation, and bulimia in a sample of 65 bulimic women was investigated. It was hypothesized that the binge-purge cycle is used dissociatively in response to painful affects. The sample was divided into two groups, based on history of sexual abuse, and compared on demographics, and on level of dissociation as measured by the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES). The phenomenological experience, purpose, and meaning of each phase of the binge-purge cycle was also explored. The entire sample was found to use the binge- purge cycle defensively, and marked alterations in affects characterize the phases of this cycle. Though DES scores between groups were not significantly different, phenomenological data revealed that the abused group was significantly more anxious and dissociative immediately after the binge. The binge-purge cycle appears to be a way that survivors of sexual abuse facilitate dissociation, numb feelings associated with the abuse, and keep dissociated memories and/or affects from consciousness.