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Eating behaviours in childhood are considered as risk factors for eating disorder behaviours and diagnoses in adolescence. However, few longitudinal studies have examined this association.
We investigated associations between childhood eating behaviours during the first ten years of life and eating disorder behaviours (binge eating, purging, fasting and excessive exercise) and diagnoses (anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, purging disorder and bulimia nervosa) at 16 years.
Data on 4760 participants from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children were included. Longitudinal trajectories of parent-rated childhood eating behaviours (8 time points, 1.3–9 years) were derived by latent class growth analyses. Eating disorder diagnoses were derived from self-reported, parent-reported and objectively measured anthropometric data at age 16 years. We estimated associations between childhood eating behaviours and eating disorder behaviours and diagnoses, using multivariable logistic regression models.
Childhood overeating was associated with increased risk of adolescent binge eating (risk difference, 7%; 95% CI 2 to 12) and binge eating disorder (risk difference, 1%; 95% CI 0.2 to 3). Persistent undereating was associated with higher anorexia nervosa risk in adolescent girls only (risk difference, 6%; 95% CI, 0 to 12). Persistent fussy eating was associated with greater anorexia nervosa risk (risk difference, 2%; 95% CI 0 to 4).
Our results suggest continuities of eating behaviours into eating disorders from early life to adolescence. It remains to be determined whether childhood eating behaviours are an early manifestation of a specific phenotype or whether the mechanisms underlying this continuity are more complex. Findings have the potential to inform preventative strategies for eating disorders.
Declaration of interest
C.M.B. reports conflict of interest with Shire (grant recipient, Scientific Advisory Board member) and Pearson and Walker (author, royalty recipient). All other authors have indicated they have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Eating disorders are prevalent, potentially lethal, and treatable, yet remain underprioritised within clinical care, research and policy. Further, with rising public health focus on obesity, there is heightened risk for inadvertent exacerbation of disordered eating and further marginalisation of these serious mental disorders. This editorial calls for corrective action.
Diagnosing eating disorders can be difficult and few people with the disorder receive specialist services despite the associated high morbidity and mortality.
To examine the burden of eating disorders in the population in terms of incidence, comorbidities and survival.
We used linked electronic health records from general practitioner and hospital admissions in Wales, UK within the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) databank to investigate the incidence of new eating disorder diagnoses. We examined the frequency of comorbid diagnoses and prescribed medications in cases and controls in the 2 years before and 3 years after diagnosis, and performed a survival analysis.
A total of 15 558 people were diagnosed with eating disorders between 1990 and 2017. The incidence peaked at 24 per 100 000 people in 2003/04. People with eating disorders showed higher levels of other mental disorders (odds ratio 4.32, 95% CI 4.01–4.66) and external causes of morbidity and mortality (odds ratio 2.92, 95% CI 2.44–3.50). They had greater prescription of central nervous system drugs (odds ratio 3.15, 95% CI 2.97–3.33), gastrointestinal drugs (odds ratio 2.61, 95% CI 2.45–2.79) and dietetic drugs (odds ratio 2.42, 95% CI 2.24–2.62) before diagnosis. These excess diagnoses and prescriptions remained 3 years after diagnosis. Mortality was raised compared with controls for some eating disorders, particularly in females with anorexia nervosa.
Incidence of diagnosed eating disorders is relatively low in the population but there is a major longer term burden in morbidity and mortality to the individual.
Emerging adulthood (age 18–25 years) is a distinct developmental phase, characterized by multiple life changes, transitions and uncertainties, associated with significant risk of mental ill health in vulnerable individuals. Identity exploration and development is key during this phase, and the development of an eating disorder during this time can significantly impact on this process. This single-case study details the treatment of an 18-year-old female outpatient with first episode, recent onset anorexia nervosa. Using the Maudsley Model of Anorexia Nervosa Treatment in Adults (MANTRA), focus was placed on identity exploration and development as a tool to reduce the dominance of anorexia nervosa and increase recovery focus. Outcome measures at end of treatment and 6-month follow-up showed significant sustained improvement in BMI and EDE-Q scores. The patient gave detailed positive feedback suggesting that this was a highly acceptable and effective intervention. The case study is discussed with reference to limitations and some reflections on the utility of incorporating identity work in the treatment of anorexia nervosa in emerging adulthood.
Key learning aims
(1)This case study is thought to have important clinical implications for tailoring the treatment of early stage AN to the emerging adult population.
(2)Identity exploration is a key feature of this developmental stage, and incorporating this work into therapy allows for experimentation and formation of an alternative, healthy set of values, beliefs and behaviours.
(3)This case also highlights the value of using role models in the construction of a non-illness driven identity, to support with behavioural change.
Little is known about the long-term outcome of anorexia nervosa.
To study the 30-year outcome of adolescent-onset anorexia nervosa.
All 4291 individuals born in 1970 and attending eighth grade in 1985 in Gothenburg, Sweden were screened for anorexia nervosa. A total of 24 individuals (age cohort for anorexia nervosa) were pooled with 27 individuals with anorexia nervosa (identified through community screening) who were born in 1969 and 1971–1974. The 51 individuals with anorexia nervosa and 51 school- and gender-matched controls were followed prospectively and examined at mean ages of 16, 21, 24, 32 and 44. Psychiatric disorders, health-related quality of life and general outcome were assessed.
At the 30-year follow-up 96% of participants agreed to participate. There was no mortality. Of the participants, 19% had an eating disorder diagnosis (6% anorexia nervosa, 2% binge-eating disorder, 11% other specified feeding or eating disorder); 38% had other psychiatric diagnoses; and 64% had full eating disorder symptom recovery, i.e. free of all eating disorder criteria for 6 consecutive months. During the elapsed 30 years, participants had an eating disorder for 10 years, on average, and 23% did not receive psychiatric treatment. Good outcome was predicted by later age at onset among individuals with adolescent-onset anorexia nervosa and premorbid perfectionism.
This long-term follow-up study reflects the course of adolescent-onset anorexia nervosa and has shown a favourable outcome regarding mortality and full symptom recovery. However, one in five had a chronic eating disorder.
Schizophrenia and anorexia nervosa were recently added to the list of conditions for which whole genome sequencing might be indicated as part of the 100 000 Genomes Project, reflecting the remarkable recent progress in findings emerging from psychiatric genetics research. Genetic testing methods may offer increased opportunities for diagnosis and estimation of familial risk and could have implications for management and treatment options. They also present ethical and philosophical questions about the role of testing and storage of genetic information. Mental health professionals will need to have a good understanding of this area in order for patients to fully realise the benefits of these advances.
Declaration of Interest
K.S.B. is Editor of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) was a new diagnosis in DSM-5 and is due to be included in ICD-11. However, confidence in making the diagnosis seems to be low among clinicians. Furthermore, there is no national consensus on care pathways for ARFID and therefore patients tend to be managed across core child and adolescent mental health services, specialist eating disorder services and paediatric services. If not adequately treated, ARFID can result in stunted growth, nutritional deficiency and impaired psychosocial functioning. Research and guidelines for managing this disorder are scarce, owing to low rates of diagnosis. This article aims to improve clinician confidence in the use of ARFID as a diagnosis and explores current consensus on treatment approaches, in order to progress future service planning for this complex and diverse patient group.
•Gain an improved knowledge of the diagnostic criteria for ARFID
•Know how to distinguish ARFID from other eating disorders
•Understand the current consensus on treatment approaches for ARFID
Perspectives of young people with eating disorders and their parents on helpful aspects of care should be incorporated into evidence-based practice and service design, but data are limited.
To explore patient and parent perspectives on positive and negative aspects of care for young people with eating disorders.
Six online focus groups with 19 young people aged 16–25 years with existing or past eating disorders and 11 parents.
Thematic analysis identified three key themes: the need to (a) shift from a weight-focused to a more holistic, individualised and consistent care approach, with a better balance in targeting psychological and physical problems from an early stage; (b) improve professionals' knowledge and attitude towards patients and their families at all levels of care from primary to ‘truly specialist’; (c) enhance peer and family support.
Young people and parents identified an array of limitations in approaches to care for young people with eating disorders and raised the need for change, particularly a move away from a primarily weight-focused treatment and a stronger emphasis on psychological needs and individualised care.
Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have identified functional connectivity patterns associated with acute undernutrition in anorexia nervosa (AN), but few have investigated recovered patients. Thus, a trait connectivity profile characteristic of the disorder remains elusive. Using state-of-the-art graph–theoretic methods in acute AN, the authors previously found abnormal global brain network architecture, possibly driven by local network alterations. To disentangle trait from starvation effects, the present study examines network organization in recovered patients.
Graph–theoretic metrics were used to assess resting-state network properties in a large sample of female patients recovered from AN (recAN, n = 55) compared with pairwise age-matched healthy controls (HC, n = 55).
Indicative of an altered global network structure, recAN showed increased assortativity and reduced global clustering as well as small-worldness compared with HC, while no group differences at an intermediate or local network level were evident. However, using support-vector classifier on local metrics, recAN and HC could be separated with an accuracy of 70.4%.
This pattern of results suggests that long-term recovered patients have an aberrant global brain network configuration, similar to acutely underweight patients. While the finding of increased assortativity may represent a trait marker of AN, the remaining findings could be seen as a scar following prolonged undernutrition.
Quantification of suicidal risk in specific populations is important for the adoption of targeted prevention and harm reduction measures. Though there remains little systematic evidence, risk of suicide attempts for bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge-purging anorexia nervosa (AN-bp) appears higher than restrictive AN (AN-r); risk in binge eating disorder (BED) is still unclear. The aim of this meta-analysis was to compare proportions of suicide attempts in eating disorder (ED) subgroups.
A literature search using combinations of key-words for ED and suicide attempts was performed. Studies reporting proportions of suicide attempters in at least two ED groups, diagnosed according to DSM-IV or -5 and ICD-10 diagnostic criteria were considered. ED subgroups were analyzed in pairs using a binary random effect model for proportions. Publication bias, meta-regression, and sensitivity analyses were performed.
In BN, attempted suicide was more frequent (21%) than in AN (12.5%), but the difference was statistically significant only when BN was compared with AN-r (9–10%). In BED, the proportion of suicide attempts was as high as in AN (10–12%).
Though limited by heterogeneity across the studies in terms of methodology and aims, inability to control for relevant confounding variables, exclusion of ED not otherwise specified, this study supports suicide attempts as a major issue in EDs, especially in binge-purging subtypes, i.e. BN and AN-bp. Similar suicidal proportions were observed in AN and BED. The reasons for a greater proportion of attempted suicide in binge/purging subtypes need to be explored in future studies.
Most studies underline the contribution of heritable factors for psychiatric disorders. However, heritability estimates depend on the population under study, diagnostic instruments, and study designs that each has its inherent assumptions, strengths, and biases. We aim to test the homogeneity in heritability estimates between two powerful, and state of the art study designs for eight psychiatric disorders.
We assessed heritability based on data of Swedish siblings (N = 4 408 646 full and maternal half-siblings), and based on summary data of eight samples with measured genotypes (N = 125 533 cases and 208 215 controls). All data were based on standard diagnostic criteria. Eight psychiatric disorders were studied: (1) alcohol dependence (AD), (2) anorexia nervosa, (3) attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), (4) autism spectrum disorder, (5) bipolar disorder, (6) major depressive disorder, (7) obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and (8) schizophrenia.
Heritability estimates from sibling data varied from 0.30 for Major Depression to 0.80 for ADHD. The estimates based on the measured genotypes were lower, ranging from 0.10 for AD to 0.28 for OCD, but were significant, and correlated positively (0.19) with national sibling-based estimates. When removing OCD from the data the correlation increased to 0.50.
Given the unique character of each study design, the convergent findings for these eight psychiatric conditions suggest that heritability estimates are robust across different methods. The findings also highlight large differences in genetic and environmental influences between psychiatric disorders, providing future directions for etiological psychiatric research.
Gray matter (GM) ‘pseudoatrophy’ is well-documented in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN), but changes in white matter (WM) are less well understood. Here we investigated the dynamics of microstructural WM brain changes in AN patients during short-term weight restoration in a combined longitudinal and cross-sectional study design.
Diffusion-weighted images were acquired in young AN patients before (acAN-Tp1, n = 56) and after (acAN-Tp2, n = 44) short-term weight restoration as well as in age-matched healthy controls (HC, n = 60). Images were processed using Tract-Based-Spatial-Statistics to compare fractional anisotropy (FA) across groups and timepoints.
In the cross-sectional comparison, FA was significantly reduced in the callosal body in acAN-Tp1 compared with HC, while no differences were found between acAN-Tp2 and HC. In the longitudinal arm, FA increased with weight gain in acAN-Tp2 relative to acAN-Tp1 in large parts of the callosal body and the fornix, while it decreased in the right corticospinal tract.
Our findings reveal that dynamic, bidirectional changes in WM microstructure in young underweight patients with AN can be reversed with brief weight restoration therapy. These results parallel those previously observed in GM and suggest that alterations in WM in non-chronic AN are also state-dependent and rapidly reversible with successful intervention.
To determine the impact of specialized treatments, relative to comparator treatments, upon the weight and psychological symptoms of anorexia nervosa (AN) at end-of-treatment (EOT) and follow-up.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) between January 1980 and December 2017 that reported the effects of at least two treatments on AN were screened. Weight and psychological symptoms were analyzed separately for each study. PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines were followed, and studies were assessed using the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation) criteria and Cochrane risk of bias tool.
We identified 35 eligible RCTs, comprising data from 2524 patients. Meta-analyses revealed a significant treatment effect on weight outcomes at EOT [g = 0.16, 95% CI (0.05–0.28), p = 0.006], but not at follow-up [g = 0.11, 95% CI (−0.04 to 0.27), p = 0.15]. There was no significant treatment effect on psychological outcomes at either EOT [g = −0.03, 95% CI (−0.14 to 0.08), p = 0.63], or follow-up [g = −0.001, 95% CI (−0.11 to 0.11), p = 0.98]. There was no strong evidence of publication bias or significant moderator effects for illness duration, mean age, year of publication, comparator group category, or risk of bias (all p values > 0.05).
Current specialized treatments are more adept than comparator interventions at imparting change in weight-based AN symptoms at EOT, but not at follow-up. Specialized treatments confer no advantage over comparator interventions in terms of psychological symptoms. Future precision treatment efforts require a specific focus on the psychological symptoms of AN.
Background: Underweight eating disorders (EDs) are notoriously difficult to treat, although a growing evidence base suggests that outpatient cognitive behaviour therapy for EDs (CBT-ED) can be effective for a large proportion of individuals. Aims: To investigate the effectiveness of CBT-ED for underweight EDs in a ‘real-world’ settings. Method: Sixty-three adults with underweight EDs (anorexia nervosa or atypical anorexia nervosa) began outpatient CBT-ED in a National Health Service setting. Results: Fifty-four per cent completed treatment, for whom significant changes were observed on measures of ED symptoms, psychological distress and psychosocial impairment. There was also a large effect on body weight at end-of-treatment. Conclusions: The results suggest that good outcomes can be achieved by the majority of those who complete treatment, although treatment non-completion remains a significant barrier to recovery. Future studies should focus on improving treatment retention, as evidence suggests that CBT-ED in ‘real-world’ settings is effective.
This service evaluation was conducted to find out: (1) if mixed gender accommodation in eating disorder units is perceived to be helpful or unhelpful for recovery, and (2) if men were being discriminated against by the implementation of the 2010 Department of Health (DoH) guidelines on the elimination of mixed gender wards. All 32 in-patient units accredited on the Quality Network for Eating Disorders were contacted via a survey.
We received 38 responses from professionals from 26 units and 53 responses from patients (46 female, 7 male) from 7 units. Four units had closed admissions to male patients due to DoH guidelines.
We found that it is possible to provide admission for men with eating disorders, while respecting the single gender accommodation rules, and that doing so is likely to be helpful for both genders and prevents discrimination against men.
Transition across eating disorder diagnoses is common, reflecting instability of specific eating disorder presentations. Previous studies have examined temporal stability of diagnoses in adult treatment-seeking samples but have not uniformly captured initial presentation for treatment. The current study examines transitions across eating disorder diagnostic categories in a large, treatment-seeking sample of individuals born in Sweden and compares these transitions across two birth cohorts and from initial diagnosis.
Data from Swedish eating disorders quality registers were extracted in 2013, including 9622 individuals who were seen at least twice from 1999 to 2013. Patterns of remission were examined in the entire sample and subsequently compared across initial diagnoses. An older (born prior to 1990) and younger birth cohort were also identified, and analyses compared these cohorts on patterns of diagnostic transition.
Although diagnostic instability was common, transition between threshold eating disorder diagnoses was infrequent. For all diagnoses, transition to remission was likely to occur following a diagnosis state that matched initial diagnosis, or through a subthreshold diagnostic state. Individuals in the younger cohort were more likely to transition to a state of remission than those in the older cohort.
Results indicate more temporal continuity in eating disorder presentations than suggested by previous research and highlight the importance of early detection and intervention in achieving remission.
A cognitive–behavioural therapy in-patient treatment model for adults with severe anorexia nervosa was developed and evaluated, and outcomes were compared with the previous treatment model and other published outcomes from similar settings.
This study showed the Pathways to Recovery outcomes were positive in terms of improvements in body mass index and psychopathology.
Adults with anorexia nervosa can achieve good outcomes despite longer illness duration and comorbidities.
Declaration of interest
A.B., A.C. and L.H. work at The Retreat where the Pathways to Recovery were developed.
Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common comorbid conditions in eating disorders (EDs). The aim of the current review and meta-analysis is to provide a qualitative summary of what is known about social anxiety (SA) in EDs, as well as to compare levels of SA in those with EDs and healthy controls. Electronic databases were systematically searched for studies using self-report measures of SA in ED populations. In total, 38 studies were identified, 12 of which were included in the meta-analyses. For both anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa, there were significant differences between ED groups and HCs, with medium to large effect sizes. Findings from the qualitative review indicate that levels of SA are similar across the ED diagnoses, and SA improves with treatment in AN. In addition, high levels of SA are associated with more severe ED psychopathology, but not body mass index. These findings add to the wider literature on socio-emotional functioning in EDs, and may have implications for treatment strategies.
Habits are behavioral routines that are automatic and frequent, relatively independent of any desired outcome, and have potent antecedent cues. Among individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN), behaviors that promote the starved state appear habitual, and this is the foundation of a recent neurobiological model of AN. In this proof-of-concept study, we tested the habit model of AN by examining the impact of an intervention focused on antecedent cues for eating disorder routines.
The primary intervention target was habit strength; we also measured clinical impact via eating disorder psychopathology and actual eating. Twenty-two hospitalized patients with AN were randomly assigned to 12 sessions of either Supportive Psychotherapy or a behavioral intervention aimed at cues for maladaptive behavioral routines, Regulating Emotions and Changing Habits (REaCH).
Covarying for baseline, REaCH was associated with a significantly lower Self-Report Habit Index (SRHI) score and significantly lower Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire (EDE-Q) global score at the end-of-treatment. The end-of-treatment effect size for SRHI was d = 1.28, for EDE-Q was d = 0.81, and for caloric intake was d = 1.16.
REaCH changed habit strength of maladaptive routines more than an active control therapy, and targeting habit strength yielded improvement in clinically meaningful measures. These findings support a habit-based model of AN, and suggest habit strength as a mechanism-based target for intervention.