Eating disorders: A hidden phenomenon in outpatient mental health?

A. Fursland, Hunna Watson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    47 Citations (Scopus)


    Background Eating disorders are common but underdiagnosed illnesses. Help-seeking for co-occurring issues, such as anxiety and depression, are common. Objectives To 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. Method Patients (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. Results 18.5% (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). Discussion This 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. Copyright © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)422-425
    JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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