Early identification and treatment of eating disorders: prodrome to syndrome

Early Interv Psychiatry. 2007 Feb;1(1):27-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7893.2007.00007.x.


The onset of eating disorder psychopathology is most common in the adolescent age group. Acute psychopathology or subsyndromal eating disorders are perhaps less intractable in these young patients. Subsyndromal eating disorders in children and adolescents are not only clinically significant in their present state, but may represent legitimate candidates for preventive efforts in light of: (i) a risk of progression from subthreshold anorexia nervosa (SAN) to AN or subthreshold bulimia nervosa (SBN) to BN; (ii) the detrimental effects on outcome of delaying treatment; and (iii) the refractory, severe nature of eating disorders once the diagnostic threshold is crossed. Moreover, children and adolescents with SAN and SBN may in fact be exhibiting early 'caseness' of these disorders. Given that AN is notoriously difficult to treat, and there are limited efficacy data for adolescent BN, attempts to disrupt these disorders in what is arguably their early phases is an important goal in preventing more chronic and treatment-resistant forms of these disorders. Future research should address whether the best interventions for SAN and SBN should be derived from the prevention or intervention fields.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy
  • Bulimia Nervosa / diagnosis*
  • Bulimia Nervosa / therapy
  • Child
  • Disease Progression*
  • Early Diagnosis*
  • Humans