Adverse childhood experiences among a treatment‐ seeking sample of adults with eating disorders

European Eating Disorders Review
By Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS Jamie Manwaring, PhD


Objective: The purpose of the current study was to examine the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among adults with eating disorders (EDs), to assess whether experiencing a greater number of ACEs is associated with more severe ED psychopathology, and to determine whether ACEs predict treatment outcome.

Method: Participants were 1819 patients (88.5% female, ages 18-72) admitted to one of two treatment facilities at inpatient, residential, or partial hospitalisation levels of care. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey and the Eating Pathology Symptom Inventory (EPSI) were completed at admission and the EPSI at discharge.

Results: Female patients reported higher ACEs than males (p = 0.03), and all diagnoses except avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder had significantly higher ACEs than patients with anorexia nervosa-restricting type (AN-R) (p's < 0.01). Across diagnoses, higher ACEs were associated with decreases in binge eating scores during treatment, but were not associated with changes in purging or restricting. Within diagnoses, higher ACEs scores were associated with decreases in purging for patients with AN-R and increases in purging for patients with binge eating disorder.

Conclusions: Results partially supported the hypothesis that higher ACEs would be associated with more severe ED psychopathology.

Written by

Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS

Dr. Philip S. Mehler began his career at Denver Health more than 35 years ago and was formerly its Chief of Internal Medicine and then Denver Health’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) until he was promoted…
Written by

Jamie Manwaring, PhD

Dr. Jamie Manwaring began clinical research in eating and weight disorders after graduating with her degree in psychology from UCLA. This clinical research continued in graduate school at Washington…

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

Center of Excellence Logo