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Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2008 Mar;17(2):108-13. Epub 2007 Sep 10.

Psychopathology in elite rhythmic gymnasts and anorexia nervosa patients.

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Dept. of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Virchow-Klinikum, Augustenburger Platz 1, 13353 Berlin, Germany.


This study investigates current psychopathology and psychological distress in elite rhythmic gymnasts. Due to a strong emphasis on leanness in aesthetic sports and the controversial findings in literature regarding the role of anorexia nervosa (AN) in such sports, we compared elite rhythmic gymnasts (n=51) to inpatients with AN (n=55) as a disease control group and to high school students (n=53) as a "normal" control group. We assessed psychopathology using the Symptom Checklist (SCL-90-R). Moreover, body height, weight, Body Mass Index (BMI) and the presence of amenorrhea were assessed. Regarding physical aspects, the rhythmic gymnasts showed an intermediate position between the two other groups. In terms of psychopathology, significant differences were found between the gymnasts and the AN patients, while no differences were detected between the gymnasts and the "normal" control group. Depression discriminated best between the three groups. Elite rhythmic gymnasts may show a lean, almost anorexic-like physique. Nevertheless, no psychological distress comparable to that of AN patients was found. Therefore, even though analogies to AN might seem obvious in elite rhythmic gymnasts, this study is putting emphasis on the importance of a careful consideration of psychological distress and psychopathology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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