Childhood anxiety may worsen anorexia
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Anorexic women with a history of childhood anxiety may have particularly severe symptoms of the eating disorder, a study suggests.
It's known that anxiety disorders, like social phobia and obsessive compulsive disorder, are far more common among people with anorexia than in the general population. Often, these anxiety disorders appear before the eating disorder does.
In the new study, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers looked at whether a history of childhood "overanxious disorder" was related to the severity of women's anorexia.
Dr. Cynthia M. Bulik, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues found that of 637 women with anorexia, 39 percent reported symptoms of childhood overanxious disorder. In nearly all cases, those symptoms arose before the onset of their anorexia.
In general, the researchers found, women with a history of childhood anxiety exhibited "more extreme personality traits" and attitudes -- like perfectionism and obsessive tendencies related to food -- than women without a history of early anxiety disorders.
They were also more likely to purge, by vomiting or abusing laxatives, in addition to strictly limiting their food intake.
According to Bulik's team, childhood anxiety disorders "may represent one entree" into anorexia. This, they say, underscores the importance of recognizing and treating these conditions early on.
SOURCE: International Journal of Eating Disorders, May 2008.