Objective: There is often a delay in the recognition of early-onset anorexia nervosa. The current study aimed to determine whether there are specific patterns in the frequency and content of family physician consultations that might predict its onset.
Method: Lifetime number and type of family physician consultations were recorded for three groups: (a) an index group comprising 19 girls with anorexia nervosa, onset under 14; (b) a clinical control group comprising 19 girls with an emotional disorder; and (c) a nonclinical group comprising 19 girls with no history of mental health problems.
Results: Both clinical groups had an elevated number of consultations, particularly in the 5 years before diagnosis. The index group had a significantly higher number of eating, weight, and shape consultations (especially in the year before diagnosis), whereas the clinical control group had a greater number of psychological consultations.
Conclusion: A single consultation about eating behaviour or weight and shape concerns is a strong predictor of the subsequent emergence of anorexia nervosa.