Paper in Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 46
- Swinbourne, J., Hunt, C., Abbott, M., Russell, J., St Clare, T., & Touyz, S. (2012). The comorbidity between eating disorders and anxiety disorders: Prevalence in an eating disorder sample and anxiety disorder sample. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 46, 118-131. DOI: 10.1177/0004867411432071.
Objective: To investigate the prevalence of comorbid eating and anxiety disorders in women presenting for inpatient and outpatient treatment of an eating disorder and women presenting for outpatient treatment of an anxiety disorder.
Methods: The prevalence of comorbidity was investigated from a sample of 152 women, which included 100 women presenting for treatment of an eating disorder and 52 women presenting for treatment of an anxiety disorder.
Results: Of women presenting for treatment of an eating disorder, 65% also met criteria for at least one comorbid anxiety disorder; 69% of these reported the onset of the anxiety disorder to precede the onset of the eating disorder. Of the anxiety disorders diagnosed, social phobia was most frequently diagnosed (42%) followed by post-traumatic stress disorder (26%), generalised anxiety disorder (23%), obsessive–compulsive disorder (5%), panic/agoraphobia (3%) and specific phobia (2%). We also found that 13.5% of women presenting for anxiety treatment also met criteria for a comorbid eating disorder. Furthermore, 71% (n = 5) reported the onset of the anxiety disorder to precede the onset of the eating disorder.
Discussion: The results of this study suggest that the prevalence of eating and anxiety disorder comorbidity is high. The present research should improve the clinical understanding of the comorbidity between eating disorders and anxiety disorders. In particular, it is anticipated that this research will have significant aetiological and therapeutic implications especially with regard to improving the clinical effectiveness of psychological treatments for eating disorders and highlighting the importance of screening for eating pathology in the clinical assessment of anxiety disorders.