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Int J Eat Disord. 2012 Mar;45(2):185-92. doi: 10.1002/eat.20909. Epub 2011 Mar 29.

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

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.



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.

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