Eating disorders: A hidden phenomenon in outpatient mental health?
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BackgroundEating disorders are common but underdiagnosed illnesses. Help-seeking for co-occurring issues, such as anxiety and depression, are common.ObjectivesTo identify the prevalence of eating problems, using the SCOFF, and eating disorders when screening positive on the SCOFF (i.e., =2), among patients seeking help for anxiety and depression at a community-based mental health service.MethodPatients (N?=?260) consecutively referred and assessed for anxiety and depression treatment were administered the SCOFF screening questionnaire and a semi-structured standardized diagnostic interview during routine intake.Results18.5% (48/260) scored =2 on the SCOFF, indicating eating problems. Of these, 41% (19/48) met criteria for an eating disorder. Thus, overall, 7.3% (19/260) of the sample met criteria for a DSM-IV eating disorder. Those scoring =2 on the SCOFF were more likely to: be female (p?=?0.001), younger (p?=?0.003), and have a history of self-harm (p?<?0.001).DiscussionThis study confirms that eating disorders are a hidden phenomenon in general outpatient mental health. By using a standardized diagnostic interview to establish diagnosis rather than self- or staff-report, the study builds on limited previous findings. The naturalistic study setting shows that screening for eating disorders can be easily built into routine intake practice, and successfully identifies treatment need
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