Objective: To describe differences between adolescents and adults in clinical presentation of eating disorders. Methods: Data from the charts of 622 female patients treated for an eating disorder in a division of adolescent medicine between 1980 and 1994 were coded and computerized. General categories included demographic and family factors, weight loss and weight changes, eating-related behaviors, diagnosis and severity, and treatment issues. Differences between the 438 patients who were aged 9-19 years (adolescents) and 184 patients who were aged 20-46 years (adults) were analyzed. Results: Adolescents were more likely than adults (p < .05) to have a diagnosis of 'eating disorder not otherwise specified,' lower global severity score, greater denial and less desire for help, weight loss ≥3 lb/month, lower original and maximum weights, and history of fasting and elimination of junk food from their diets. Adults were more likely than adolescents (p < .05) to have >1 year of weight loss, greater total weight loss, history of binge eating and laxative use, history of diuretic and ipecac use, diagnosis of bulimia nervosa, and prior use of psychiatric medications. Adolescents and adults did not differ (p > .05) in parents' occupational level; height, weight, and percent ideal body weight at presentation; original percent ideal body weight; use of diet pills, elimination of meat and use of a low-fat diet; daily calorie intake; prior eating disorder hospitalizations; and hospitalization during the course of treatment. Conclusions: The findings in this study document and confirm that there are important differences between adolescents and adults that must be taken into account in the evaluation and treatment of patients with eating disorders. Copyright © 2001 Society for Adolescent Medicine.
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