Four Factors Useful in Identifying Eating Disorders in Girls

Article excerpt

HONOLULU -- There are four factors that can help distinguish a girl who has an eating disorder from one who simply diets, Catherine M. Shisslak, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

More than 50% of adolescent girls report dieting, either chronically, or intermittently, or occasionally, according to the results of a longitudinal study that followed 1,170 girls for 4 years through high school.

Any girl who reports dieting in the past year and has these four other risk factors--high body mass index, onset of menstruation before the sixth grade, overly concerned with weight or shape, and teasing by peers--should be carefully screened for an eating disorder, Dr. Shisslak said in a poster presentation.

Those factors correctly identified 88% of the girls in the study who reported that they were chronic dieters. Eighty percent of the girls who were chronic dieters had an eating disorder at the start of the study or developed one during high school.

The unexpected finding of the study was that peer teasing appeared to play such a prominent role in the eating disorders, Dr. …