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Keywords:

  • diagnostic criteria;
  • anorexia nervosa;
  • bulimia nervosa;
  • clinical inference;
  • refusal

Abstract

Objective:

This article reviews literature relevant to challenges in clinical ascertainment of cognitively-based diagnostic criteria of anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) to examine whether revision might enhance their clinical utility.

Method:

We performed a systematic literature search to identify publications relevant to clinical evaluation of cognitive symptoms of AN and BN.

Results:

The literature supports several reasons that individuals with an eating disorder may not endorse cognitive symptoms, despite their presence. These include limited insight, minimization, or denial, as well as intentional concealment related to perceived stigma, social desirability, or investment in maintaining behavioral symptoms. We also identified reasons that the word “refusal” in AN criterion A may render its application problematic.

Discussion:

We conclude that specific guidance for ascertainment of cognitive signs for AN and BN in the absence of patient disclosure or endorsement, longitudinal evaluation, and/or collateral data may improve clinical utility of these diagnostic criteria. © 2009 American Psychiatric Association. Int J Eat Disord 2009