Adolescent health

March 2011

FocusAdolescent health

Eating disorders

Early identification in general practice

Volume 40, No.3, March 2011 Pages 108-111

Michele Yeo MBBS, FRACP, PhD, is a paediatrician/adolescent physician, Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria.

Elizabeth Hughes BAppSc(Hons), PhD, is Research Fellow, Eating Disorders Program, Centre for Adolescent Health University of Melbourne Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria

Background

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that impact on both the physical and socio-emotional health of young people, and contribute to significant morbidity. Dieting behaviours and body image concerns are common in adolescence and it can be challenging to identify those at the extreme end of this spectrum who are at risk of an eating disorder.

Objective

This article presents a brief overview of eating disorders, with a focus on early identification in general practice. An approach to diagnosis is outlined together with an update on evidence based treatments.

Discussion

General practitioners are uniquely placed to recognise early onset eating disorders, offer intervention and help coordinate and monitor treatment. Early detection and management may contribute to better outcomes.

Eating disorders are serious illnesses that affect both the physical and socio-emotional health of young people; they have significant impact on families and cause significant mortality and morbidity. The main eating disorders comprise:
  • anorexia nervosa (AN)
  • bulimia nervosa (BN), and
  • eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS), ie. eating disorders that do not fully meet the criteria for either AN or BN.

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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