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July 20, 2012

Lesser Known Eating Disorders Linked to Adverse Outcomes

What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘Eating Disorders’?  Many would associate this with the deadly diseases of Anorexia and Bulimia, which are typically known and understood.  Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS), though not as universally familiar to the general public as its counterparts, is relatively common and equally as devastating.

While many men and women would not meet the criteria to be diagnosed with Anorexia or Bulimia, this does not nullify the fact that countless individuals continue to struggle with disordered eating of some form.  For some, this can mean purging on a weekly basis.  For others, this can mean binge eating and/or purging monthly.  Regardless of the frequency or the official diagnoses, suffering caused by devastating physical/emotional consequences, affects this population as well.  The tragedy of this is that many individuals, who struggle with EDNOS or a subtype of Bulimia Nervosa, may never receive adequate treatment or help, particularly as they may be underrepresented in eating disorder clinic samples.

A prospective study recently published in the Pediatrics Journal evaluated whether this specific population is predictive to developing adverse outcomes.  This was achieved by analyzing 8,594 female participants over the course of several years who were categorized as having bulimia, binge eating disorder, purging disorder, other EDNOS, or non-disordered.

Researchers found some surprising results through analysis of their questionnaires obtained from these participants.  It was noted that adolescent girls with binge eating disorder were more likely than their peers to become overweight or obese, and girls with purging disorder had an increased risk of using drugs and binge drinking frequently. Even those participants, who reported disordered eating behaviors as occurring monthly, rather than weekly, were also found to have high rates of adverse outcomes, such as the risk of developing depressive symptoms, turning to drug use, or binge drinking.

Researchers also discussed how the current DSM-IV does not classify purging disorder or binge eating disorders as separate diagnostic units, though the upcoming revision of the DSM is expected to include binge eating disorder as a diagnostic classification.  Until then, a significant group who has sub-threshold symptoms, continues to be overlooked.

However, the findings of this study are monumental for the future of prevention and treatment of these conditions.  Perhaps with the knowledge that these eating disorders, though not as well known as Anorexia or Bulimia, can also result in a range of detrimental outcomes, more attention and efforts will be made to increase awareness and respond effectively.

Primary source: Pediatrics
Source reference:
Field A, et al “Prospective association of common eating disorders and adverse outcomes” Pediatr 2012; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-3663.

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