Twelve-year course and outcome predictors of anorexia nervosa

Manfred M Fichter, Norbert Quadflieg, Susanne Hedlund
International Journal of Eating Disorders 2006, 39 (2): 87-100

OBJECTIVE: The current study presents the long-term course of anorexia nervosa (AN) over 12 years in a large sample of 103 patients diagnosed according to criteria in the 4th ed. of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

METHOD: Assessments were made at the beginning of therapy, at the end of therapy, at the 2-year follow-up, at the 6-year follow-up, and at the 12-year follow-up. Self-rating and an expert-rating interview data were obtained.

RESULTS: The participation rate at the 12-year follow-up was 88% of those alive. There was substantial improvement during therapy, a moderate (in many instances nonsignificant) decline during the first 2 years posttreatment, and further improvement from 3 to 12 years posttreatment. Based on a global 12-year outcome score, 27.5% had a good outcome, 25.3% an intermediate outcome, 39.6% had a poor outcome, and 7 (7.7%) were deceased. At the 12-year follow-up 19.0% had AN, 9.5% had bulimia nervosa-purging type (BN-P), 19.0% were classified as eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). A total of 52.4% showed no major DSM-IV eating disorder and 0% had binge eating disorder (BED). Systematic-strictly empirically based-model building resulted in a parsimonious model including four predictors of unfavorable 12-year outcome explaining 45% of the variance, that is, sexual problems, impulsivity, long duration of inpatient treatment, and long duration of an eating disorder.

CONCLUSION: Mortality was high and symptomatic recovery protracted. Impulsivity, symptom severity, and chronicity were the important factors for predicting the 12-year outcome.

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