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Eighteen-month Course and Outcome of Adolescent Restrictive Eating Disorders: Persistence, Crossover, and Recovery
Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology  (IF5.077),  Pub Date : 2022-04-27, DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2022.2034634
Lauren Breithaupt, Danielle L. Kahn, Meghan Slattery, Franziska Plessow, Christopher Mancuso, Alyssa Izquierdo, Melissa J. Dreier, Kendra Becker, Debra L. Franko, Jennifer J. Thomas, Laura Holsen, Elizabeth A. Lawson, Madhusmita Misra, Kamryn T. Eddy



In adults, low-weight restrictive eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa (AN), are marked by chronicity and diagnostic crossover from restricting to binge-eating/purging. Less is known about the naturalistic course of these eating disorders in adolescents, particularly atypical AN (atyp-AN) and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). To inform nosology of low-weight restrictive eating disorders in adolescents, we examined outcomes including persistence, crossover, and recovery in an 18-month observational study.


We assessed 82 women (ages 10–23 years) with low-weight eating disorders including AN (n = 40; 29 restricting, 11 binge-eating/purging), atyp-AN (n = 26; 19 restricting, seven binge-eating/purging), and ARFID (n = 16) at baseline, nine months (9 M; 75% retention), and 18 months (18 M; 73% retention) via semi-structured interviews. First-order Markov modeling was used to determine diagnostic persistence, crossover, and recovery occurring at 9 M or 18 M.


Among all diagnoses, the likelihood of remaining stable within a given diagnosis was greater than that of transitioning, with the greatest probability among ARFID (0.84) and AN-R (0.62). Persistence of BP and atypical presentations at follow-up periods was less stable (AN-BP probability 0.40; atyp-AN-R probability 0.48; atyp-AN-BP probability, 0.50). Crossover from binge-eating/purging to restricting occurred 72% of the time; crossover from restricting to binge-eating/purging occurred 23% of the time. The likelihood of stable recovery (e.g., recovery at both 9 M and 18 M) was between 0.00 and 0.36.


Across groups, intake diagnosis persisted in about two-thirds, and recovery was infrequent, underscoring the urgent need for innovative treatment approaches to these illnesses. Frequent crossover between AN and atyp-AN supports continuity between typical and atypical presentations, whereas no crossover to ARFID supports its distinction.