Newswise — Reston, VA, January 30, 2017 – The age of onset of anorexia nervosa is decreasing, resulting in more children being diagnosed with eating disorders. In an effort to better understand eating problems in children, researchers analyzed data from psychiatrists and pediatricians in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The sample included 436 children, aged 5-12 years old, and revealed two distinct patient groups within those experiencing the symptom of restriction, meaning food avoidance.

The features of one group most resembled those of the existing diagnostic category of anorexia nervosa. Children within this group demonstrated restrictive eating, weight loss, and fears about negative consequences of eating (e.g., greater weight preoccupation, fear of being fat, body image problems, over exercising). Data revealed that this group was typically older, had greater weight loss problems, and were more likely to have been admitted to an inpatient unit and have unstable vital signs.

The features of the second subgroup seemed to most resemble the features of the existing diagnostic category of avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). This group was comprised of children with food avoidance and abnormal weight loss. These children presented with fewer weight or shape concerns and with little to no interest in compensatory behaviors. They were more likely to report somatic complaints and/or have a comorbid psychiatric disorder.

Findings of this study show significant evidence that a second category of Feeding and Eating Disorders exists amongst children consistent with the newly added DSM-5 diagnosis of ARFID.

Dr. Pinhas, lead author stated, “This study provides more evidence that children with eating disorders need to be studied as a group that is separate and different from adolescents and adults with eating disorders. As all of the countries involved were English speaking. It would be interesting to see if non-English speaking countries with pediatric surveillance programs produce the same results. This would be a compelling future direction to explore.”

This study, “Classification of Childhood Onset Eating Disorders: A latent class analysis,” appears in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

ABOUT The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) is an international professional association committed to the leadership in eating disorders research, education, treatment, and prevention. The goal of the AED is to provide global access to knowledge, research, and best treatment practice for eating disorders. For additional information, please contact Elissa Myers at (703) 626-9087 and visit the AED website at ###