Family physician consultation patterns indicate high risk for early-onset anorexia nervosa

Int J Eat Disord. 2005 Nov;38(3):269-72. doi: 10.1002/eat.20163.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis
  • Affective Symptoms / therapy
  • Age of Onset
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy*
  • Body Weight
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors