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Is childhood OCD a risk factor for eating disorders later in life? A longitudinal study

  • N. Micali (a1), K. Hilton (a1), E. Natatani (a1), I. Heyman (a1), C. Turner (a1) and D. Mataix-Cols (a1)...



It has been suggested that childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may be a risk factor for the development of an eating disorder (ED) later in life, but prospective studies are lacking. We aimed to determine the prevalence of ED at follow-up and clinical predictors in a longitudinal clinical sample of adolescents/young adults diagnosed with OCD in childhood.


All contactable (n=231) young people with OCD assessed over 9 years at a national and specialist paediatric OCD clinic were included in this study. At follow-up, 126 (57%) young people and parents completed the ED section of the Developmental and Well-being Assessment. Predictors for ED were investigated using logistic regression.


In total, 16 participants (12.7%) had a diagnosis of ED at follow-up. Having an ED was associated with female gender and persistent OCD at follow-up. There was a trend for family history of ED being predictive of ED diagnosis. Five (30%) of those who developed an ED at follow-up had ED symptoms or food-related obsessions/compulsions at baseline. A difference in predictors for an ED versus other anxiety disorders at follow-up was identified.


This study provides initial evidence that baseline clinical predictors such as female gender and family history of ED might be specific to the later development of ED in the context of childhood OCD. Clinicians should be alert to ED subthreshold symptoms in young girls presenting with OCD. Future longitudinal studies are needed to clarify the relationship between childhood OCD and later ED.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr N. Micali, Brain and Behaviour Sciences Unit, UCL Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK. (Email:


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