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Teens with eating disorders more likely to harbor thoughts of suicide, study finds

March 08, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
  • Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, shares her battles with insecurity and bulimia in "More."
Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, shares her battles with insecurity… (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

Teens suffering from anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders are more likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts, anxiety disorders and substance abuse -- but how much they suffer may depend on the type of eating disorder they have.

That’s according to an analysis published online Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry that, with 10,123 adolescents surveyed, is the largest and most comprehensive study of eating disorders in teens in the United States.

About 0.3% of the teens surveyed reported suffering from anorexia nervosa, and 0.9% from bulimia nervosa. A full 1.6% suffered from binge-eating disorder.  Ethnic minorities were more likely to report binge-eating disorder, and white teens tended more toward anorexia. 

Those who had one of these three eating disorders often suffered from other issues as well. For example, those who were anorexic were 1.6 times more likely to have problems with alcohol – but bulimics were 3.1 times as likely, the study found.

As for phobias, people with anorexia were 1.8 times more likely to suffer from a social phobia. Those with bulimia were at 3.9 times the risk, but even that jump was dwarfed by those with binge-eating issues, who were 5.9 times as likely to suffer a social phobia.

Sound scary? It could be worse than we think: The researchers write in the paper that some of these numbers may actually be “a lower bound of the true prevalence of eating disorders.”

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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