Background: Psychiatric comorbidity is common in eating disorders (EDs) and associated with poor outcomes, including increased risk for relapse and premature death. Yet little is known about comorbidity following ED recovery. Methods: We examined two common comorbidities, major depressive disorder (MDD) and substance use disorder (SUD), in adult women with intake diagnoses of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa who participated in a 22-year longitudinal study. One hundred and seventy-six of 228 surviving participants (77.2%) were interviewed 22 years after study entry using the Eating Disorders Longitudinal Interval Follow-up Evaluation to assess ED recovery status. Sixty-four percent (n = 113) were recovered from their ED. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV was used to assess MDD and SUD at 22 years. Results: At 22-year follow-up, 28% (n = 49) met criteria for MDD, and 6% (n = 11) met criteria for SUD. Those who recovered from their ED were 2.17 times more likely not to have MDD at 22-year follow-up (95% CI [1.10, 4.26], p =.023) and 5.33 times more likely not to have a SUD at 22-year follow-up than those who had not recovered from their ED (95% CI [1.36, 20.90], p =.008). Conclusion: Compared to those who had not fully recovered from their ED, those who had recovered were twice as likely not to be diagnosed with MDD in the past year and five times as likely not to be diagnosed with SUDs in the past year. These findings provide evidence that long-term recovery from EDs is associated with recovery from or absence of these common major comorbidities. Because comorbidity in EDs can predict poor outcomes, including greater risk for relapse and premature death, our findings of reduced risk for psychiatric comorbidity following recovery at long-term follow-up is cause for optimism.

Eating disorders, Major depressive disorder, Recovery, Substance use disorder
Comprehensive Psychiatry
Department of Psychology

Keshishian, A.C. (Ani C.), Tabri, N, Becker, K.R. (Kendra R.), Franko, D.L. (Debra L.), Herzog, D.B. (David B.), Thomas, J.J. (Jennifer J.), & Eddy, K.T. (Kamryn T.). (2019). Eating disorder recovery is associated with absence of major depressive disorder and substance use disorders at 22-year longitudinal follow-up. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 90, 49–51. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2019.01.002