Implications of a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa in a ballet school

Authors

  • Dr. Daniel le Grange M.A., Ph.D., C. Psychol.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town
    2. Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Eating Disorders Clinic, Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town
    • Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa
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  • Jason Tibbs B.A.(Hons),

    1. Graduate student in the Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town
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  • Timothy D. Noakes M.B.Ch.B., M.D.

    1. Professor in the Liberty Life Chair of Exercise and Sports Science and Director of the MRC/UCT Bioenergetics of Exercise Research Unit, Department of Physiology, University of Cape Town Medical School
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Abstract

Competitive pressures to achieve a slim body shape may be of importance in the etiology of eating disorders in ballet dancers. This study examines the presence of anorexia nervosa-like symptoms in a group of 49 female ballet students (mean age = 18.9 years, SD ± 1.9). All students were assessed for certain physical (weight and height) and psychological (Eating Attitude Test [EAT]) indices at the start of their academic training year. Thereafter, all subjects who presented with anorexia nervosa-like symptoms (EAT ≥ 30, and/or with current secondary amenorrhea or primary amenorrhea if aged 16 years or over) at the initial assessment, were invited for a semistructured interview (Morgan-Russel scales) to determine their diagnostic status. Another aim of the study was to assess the prognostic implications of a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa in this sample. All subjects previously interviewed were invited for a follow-up assessment at 10 months. Anorexia nervosa could be diagnosed in 2 students (4.1%), whilst another 4 students (8.2%) presented with “partial syndrome” anorexia nervosa. All diagnosed students managed to complete their academic training year. The development and implications of a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa in the ballet students are discussed.

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