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date: 09 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Eating disorders are significant disorders of adolescence and young adulthood. They are truly psychosomatic in character, presenting with complex mixtures of somatic and psychiatric symptoms. We propose that the most useful model for empirical study and clinical practice targeting them is based on developmental psychiatry. In contradistinction to the descriptive model, developmentally based approaches can accommodate both continuity and discontinuity between pathology and normality, complexity of mental states and clinical presentation, and social and temporal context as determinants of psychopathology. The model conceptualizes etiology along multiple layers of accumulating risk and protective factors that—once a critical level of accumulation is reached—result in full-blown syndromal disorders. We outline the implications of this model for diagnosis and treatment.

Keywords: Eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, developmental psychiatry, risk and protective factors, vulnerability, resilience

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