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Eating Disorder Symptoms Differ with Age

Update Date: Jan 13, 2014 02:47 PM EST

According to a new study, researchers reported that symptoms of many different eating disorders vary greatly across ages. This new finding suggests that treatment programs and screening tests might need to be specific to the age group.

For this study, the research team headed by Dr. Hunna Watson, who is a Senior Research Psychologist from Princess Margaret Hospital for Children Eating Disorders Program (PMH EDP) set out to examine physical, behavioral and clinical symptoms of different eating disorders. The team borrowed data from the Helping to Outline Pediatric Eating Disorders (HOPE) Project. This project is an ongoing registry that collects information on pediatric clinical eating disorders. The children were admitted to the program starting in 1996.

The researchers had information on 656 adolescents who all met the diagnostic criteria from the DSM-V for an eating disorder. 104 of them were younger than 13 and 552 of them were between 13 and 17-years-old. The researchers also used the Eating Disorder Examination to measure the adolescent's behavioral symptoms, which include binge-eating, purging and excessive exercising, and cognitive symptoms, such as weight concern and restraint.

The researchers reported that in the group of 104 children, 41.3 percent had Anorexia nervosa (AN), 1.9 percent had Bulimia nervosa (BN) and the remaining 56.7 percent had an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). In the other group, 38 percent had AN, 10.3 percent had BN and 51.6 percent had EDNOS.

"Children were less likely to binge eat, purge, or exercise for shape and weight control compared to adolescents," Dr Watson reported according to Medical Xpress. "Children also lost weight at a faster rate than adolescents. Adolescents were more likely to present with BN and report binge eating, self-induced vomiting, and laxative misuse."

The researchers reported that both groups of children were susceptible to malnutrition and its consequences, such as hypotension and bradycardia. The researchers hope that this study's findings could help improve treatments for eating disorders.

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