Psychological and eating disorder symptoms as predictors of starting eating disorder treatment

Caitlin A. Martin-Wagar, Rebecca G. Boswell, Brooke L. Bennett, Hayley Perelman, Lauren N. Forrest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Little is known about the treatment uptake rate for adults diagnosed with an eating disorder through formal assessment. This study aimed to identify psychological and eating disorder symptoms that predict whether individuals with diagnosed eating disorders start treatment after receiving a diagnostic assessment and recommendation to begin treatment. Identifying barriers to starting treatment can inform interventions to improve the uptake of treatment. Method: After a diagnostic assessment at an eating disorder specialty clinic, 223 adults were recommended to begin treatment and completed self-report measures of psychological functioning, clinical impairment, and eating psychopathology. Patient attendance was assessed to determine rates and predictors of starting treatment within 3 months of the assessment. Results: Of the 223 patients recommended to begin treatment, approximately two-third started treatment within 3 months of the assessment. Logistic regression identified greater avoidance of eating, greater laxative use frequency, more social eating concerns, and lower weight dissatisfaction as predicting lower likelihood of beginning treatment after assessment. A chi-square test for independence found no significant differences between diagnostic groups on starting treatment. Discussion: Findings identify eating disorder symptoms that predict treatment enrollment after diagnostic assessment and recommendation to begin treatment. Assessing for these symptoms at the diagnostic assessment stage is recommended to address potential treatment barriers. Future research should identify strategies that increase treatment uptake at this stage of the process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1500-1508
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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