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Stressful life events predict eating disorder relapse following remission: Six-year prospective outcomes




To examine prospectively the natural course of bulimia nervosa (BN) and eating disorder not-otherwise-specified (EDNOS) and test for the effects of stressful life events (SLE) on relapse after remission from these eating disorders.


117 female patients with BN (N = 35) or EDNOS (N = 82) were prospectively followed for 72 months using structured interviews performed at baseline, 6- and 12-months, and then yearly thereafter. ED were assessed with the structured clinical interview for DSM-IV, and monitored over time with the longitudinal interval follow-up evaluation. Personality disorders were assessed with the diagnostic interview for DSM-IV-personality-disorders, and monitored over time with the follow-along-version. The occurrence and specific timing of SLE were assessed with the life events assessment interview. Cox proportional-hazard-regression-analyses tested associations between time-varying levels of SLE and ED relapse, controlling for comorbid psychiatric disorders, ED duration, and time-varying personality-disorder status.


ED relapse probability was 43%; BN and EDNOS did not differ in time to relapse. Negative SLE significantly predicted ED relapse; elevated work and social stressors were significant predictors. Psychiatric comorbidity, ED duration, and time-varying personality-disorder status were not significant predictors.


Higher work and social stress represent significant warning signs for triggering relapse for women with remitted BN and EDNOS. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012)