Bulimia is characterized by poor affect regulation, yet the role of emotional intelligence (EI) is little understood. This study examined associations between EI and bulimic symptoms using 235 women from community and student populations. They completed measures of trait and ability EI, and the Eating Disorders Diagnostic Scale. Results showed that deficiencies in different aspects of trait EI and/or ability EI are a function of symptom type: binge eating, compensatory behaviours or weight and shape concerns. Consistent with affect regulation models, self-regulatory aspects of trait EI were related to two bulimic symptoms: binge eating and weight and shape concerns. Ability-based self-emotion management was not important, and explanatory power of lower-level EI facets (traits or abilities) was not superior to more broadly defined EI factors. Results support the conclusion that trait and ability EI may maintain subclinical levels of bulimic symptoms but have different paths.