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Entries in National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (1)

Tuesday
Mar082011

Eating Disorders in Teens May Point to Psychiatric Issues

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- Researchers say that rates for teen eating disorders are only slightly lower than for adults and many teens with this problem also have at least one other psychiatric issue.

Kathleen Merikangas of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., and her colleagues reported online in the Archives of General Psychiatry that while most teens appear to want help for psychological comorbidities, they do not appear to be receiving treatment specifically for eating disorders.

Because so little was known about the prevalence of the "eating disorder not otherwise specified" (includes binge eating) in teens compared to the existing data in adult cases, researchers conducted interviews with a sample of 10,123 teens ages 13-18.  They called it the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement.

The study, in which researchers looked at the presence of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating among the participants, found that there were no gender differences in anorexia or in sub-threshold binge-eating.  Girls were more likely to report bulimia, binge-eating and sub-threshold anorexia, the investigators found.

Survey participants also reported at least one other psychiatric disorder in most cases in which an eating problem was present, Merikangas and colleagues reported.  The data reflected that teens reporting comorbidity were 55.2 percent for anorexia, 88 percent for bulimia, 83.5 percent for binge-eating, 79.8 percent for those with sub-threshold anorexia and 70.1 percent for those with sub-threshold binge-eating.

The study authors warned, however, that the cross-section design of the study restricts the ability to make conclusions about the temporal correlations between eating disorders and comorbid conditions.

Still, the authors say that the study "provides key information concerning the epidemiology of eating disorders" for U.S. teens and find that these disorders "represent a major public health concern."

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