Audit of digestive complaints and psychopathological traits in patients with eating disorders: a prospective study

Dig Liver Dis. 2013 Aug;45(8):639-44. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2013.02.022. Epub 2013 Apr 9.


Background: Esophago-gastrointestinal symptoms are frequently reported by patients with eating disorders. Scanty data exist on the relationship between psychopathological traits and digestive complaints.

Aims: To prospectively analyze (i) prevalence of digestive symptoms; (ii) psychopathological traits; (iii) relationship between symptom scores and psychopathological profiles.

Methods: Psychopathological and digestive symptom questionnaires were completed at baseline, at discharge, at 1 and 6 months' follow-up in 48 consecutive patients (85.4% female, median age, 15 years) hospitalized for eating disorders.

Results: The most frequently reported symptoms were postprandial fullness (96%) and abdominal distention (90%). Pooled esophageal (4; IQR 0-14) and gastrointestinal (34; IQR 19-53) symptoms significantly decreased at 6 months' follow-up (1; IQR 0-3 and 10; IQR 4-34; p<0.0001 and p<0.005, respectively). Pooled gastrointestinal symptoms significantly correlated with hypochondriasis (r=0.42, p<0.01). Both esophageal and gastrointestinal symptoms improved in patients with normal values of hypochondriasis and hysteria scales (p<0.05 and p<0.005, respectively) compared to those with pathological traits.

Conclusions: Digestive symptoms are frequently reported by patients with eating disorders with their expression and outcome being influenced by psychopathological profiles. Hypochondriasis and hysteria traits are predictive factors for symptomatic improvement.

Keywords: Eating disorders; Esophago-gastrointestinal symptoms; MMPI; Psychopathological traits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / complications
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / physiopathology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Medical Audit
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychotherapy
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires