Anorexia nervosa in a long-term perspective: results of the Heidelberg-Mannheim Study.

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The long-term outcome of 84 anorexia nervosa patients was studied over a period of 12 years using global clinical ratings and differential physical findings in addition to standardized psychometric measurements. An unusual polarization into good and fatal outcomes was found, with a high recovery rate of 54% and a high mortality rate of 11%. When psychiatric and somatic comorbidity and psychosocial functioning were included in the assessment, the recovery rate was only 41% after 12 years. Clear cases of anorexia decreased steadily from 100% at clinical presentation to 67% after 2 years, 40% after 4 years, and 23% after 6 years. There was almost no further decline after the ninth year of follow-up (17%). Purging, physical symptoms, advanced age at clinical presentation, and a high social status were predictors for an unfavorable course. About 22% of the patients had suffered a relapse after remission. At first presentation, they were young and had a short duration of illness but showed severe psychiatric disorders. Results are discussed in terms of methodological and clinical issues involved in the long-term follow-up of anorexia nervosa patients.

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