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Exploring the relationship between hormonal contraceptive methods and symptoms of depression and bulimia nervosa




Almengual, Mallory, author
Rickard, Kathryn, advisor
Cox-York, Kimberly, committee member
Graham, Dan, committee member

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Research has been unable to determine if there is a link between hormonal contraceptive (HC) use, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and Bulimia Nervosa (BN). There is a well-documented sex discrepancy in the lifetime prevalence of both of these diagnoses such that women are disproportionately affected. Prevalence rates of MDD are similar between males and females during childhood. However, following the onset of puberty, women are inordinately affected by MDD. This difference has been observed throughout the duration of the female reproductive years. Prevalence rates of MDD between males and females return to equivalence following menopause. Females are also at a much greater risk of developing an eating disorder (ED) during their lifetime, and the age of onset typically aligns with puberty. The effects of HC use on mental health remain largely unknown. The current body of research on HC use and MDD is characterized by inconsistent, and even contradictory, findings about both the presence and direction of the such a relationship. There is a paucity of research examining HC use and BN, though changes in appetite and weight gain are two of the most commonly reported side effects of HC use. The present study aimed to explore such relationships among a sample of undergraduate women at Colorado State University. Using self-report measures, this project attempted to examine potential correlations between HC use and symptoms of MDD and BN. Data from 378 respondents was collected via survey and analyzed using Multiple Linear Regression. Participants were categorized into HC users and Nonhormonal Contraceptive (NC) users. No significant relationship was observed between HC use and MDD. Negative correlations were identified between HC use and two measures of maladaptive eating implicated in the etiology and maintenance of BN: Cognitive Restraint and Emotional Eating. These findings suggest that HC use might actually serve as a protective factor for the development of BN. Further research is needed to better understand these relationships and to better inform individuals considering HC as part of their reproductive health practices.


2020 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.

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bulimia nervosa
feminist health care
women's health movement
birth control
hormonal contraception


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