Menstrual cycle loss and resumption among patients with anorexia nervosa spectrum eating disorders: Is relative or absolute weight more influential?

Laura A Berner, Emily H Feig, Ashley A Witt, Michael R Lowe
International Journal of Eating Disorders 2017, 50 (4): 442-446

OBJECTIVE: Prior research suggests that both body mass index (BMI) and weight suppression (highest past weight minus current weight; WS) are important in determining adult anorexia nervosa (AN) severity. We examined associations between amenorrhea and WS, DSM-5 BMI severity category, and highest premorbid BMI among patients with AN.

METHOD: Participants (N = 69) were adult female AN-spectrum patients at two residential treatment facilities. At admission, height, and weight were measured, and participants completed questionnaires assessing menstrual status and weight history.

RESULTS: Greater WS, adjusted for BMI, was associated with menstrual function at admission. First amenorrhea onset occurred at a normal BMI for 38.5% of participants. Premorbid highest BMI positively correlated with BMI at amenorrhea onset, and higher BMI at amenorrhea onset was associated with higher BMI at menses resumption.

DISCUSSION: These findings add to the literature indicating that relative and absolute weight status are dual indicators of illness severity in AN, and preliminarily suggest that a large proportion of adults who present for treatment initially may have shown symptoms of starvation at a normal BMI. Results underscore the need to focus on weight loss in early detection efforts and may inform target weight setting in the treatment of AN.

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