A large-scale study has revealed early warning signs that can predict eating disorder, giving doctors a better chance of detecting why people suffer from binge eating disorder.
The research by Wales-based Swansea University, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, showed that people diagnosed with a disorder had higher rates of other conditions and of prescriptions in the years before their diagnosis.
Eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, among others.
They predominantly affect women but also men. most people are diagnosed during adolescence and early adulthood. Eating disorders have the highest mortality of all mental illnesses, both from physical causes and from suicide.
"I cannot emphasise enough the importance of detection and early intervention for eating disorders. Delays in receiving diagnosis and treatment are sadly common and also associated with poorer outcomes and great suffering," said Dr Jacinta Tan, associate professor of psychiatry at Swansea University.
The research team, from Swansea University Medical School, examined anonymised electronic health records from GPs and hospital admissions in Wales. Nearly 15,558 people in Wales were diagnosed as having eating disorders between 1990 and 2017.
"Eating disorders can have a devastating impact on individuals and their families so this study is very timely," said Professor Keith Lloyd, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Wales.