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J Affect Disord. 2011 May;130(3):470-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2010.10.043. Epub 2010 Nov 24.

Depression and eating disorders: treatment and course.

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Depression Clinical and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



We examined the course of major depressive disorder (MDD) and predictors of MDD recovery and relapse in a longitudinal sample of women with eating disorders (ED).


246 Boston-area women with DSM-IV anorexia nervosa-restricting (ANR; n=51), AN-binge/purge (ANBP; n=85), and bulimia nervosa (BN; n=110) were recruited between 1987 and 1991 and interviewed using the Eating Disorders Longitudinal Interval Follow-up Evaluation (LIFE-EAT-II) every 6-12 months for up to 12 years. 100 participants had MDD at study intake and 45 developed MDD during the study. Psychological functioning and treatment were assessed.


Times to MDD onset (1 week-4.3 years), recovery (8 weeks-8.7 years), and relapse (1 week-5.2 years) varied. 70% recovered from MDD, but 65% subsequently relapsed. ANR patients were significantly less likely to recover from MDD than ANBP patients (p=0.029). Better psychological functioning and history of MDD were associated with higher chance of MDD recovery. Higher baseline depressive severity and full recovery from ED were associated with greater likelihood of MDD relapse; increased weight loss was somewhat protective. Adequate antidepressant treatment was given to 72% of patients with MDD and generally continued after MDD recovery. Time on antidepressants did not predict MDD recovery (p=0.27) or relapse (p=0.26).


Small ED diagnostic subgroups; lack of non-ED control group.


The course of MDD in EDs is protracted; MDD recovery may depend on ED type. Antidepressants did not impact likelihood of MDD recovery, nor protect against relapse, which may impact on treatment strategies for comorbid MDD and EDs.

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