Eating Disorders in Adolescents With Chronic Pain

Leslie A. Sim, Jocelyn Lebow, Karen Weiss, Tracy Harrison, Barbara Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Introduction: Given that youth with chronic pain frequently experience disruptions in eating patterns that may place them at risk for disordered eating, the purpose of this study was to examine the clinical characteristics and illness course of adolescents with chronic pain and comorbid eating disorders. Methods: Using a retrospective chart review, 34 adolescents with chronic pain and concurrent eating disorders were identified. These adolescents were compared with 34 age-, gender-, and eating disorder symptom-matched adolescents who had an eating disorder without chronic pain. Results: The majority of adolescents with chronic pain and an eating disorder had a primary medical diagnosis of abdominal pain (n = 14), followed by autonomic dysfunction (n = 10) and headache (n = 6). Although in 41.2% of teens with chronic pain, eating disorder symptoms developed after the onset of their pain, 35.3% reported having eating disorder symptoms before they experienced chronic pain. Body mass index did not differ between the groups, but the duration of eating disorder symptoms was significantly longer for the chronic pain group (p <.001). Discussion: Despite comparable severity, eating disorders are undetected for longer periods in patients with chronic pain, which may contribute to a poorer prognosis. Implications for eating disorder conceptualization, detection, and treatment are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Pediatric Health Care
StateAccepted/In press - 2016


  • Adolescents
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Autonomic dysfunction
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Chronic pain
  • Eating disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Eating Disorders in Adolescents With Chronic Pain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this