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Meule, Adrian ORCID: 0000-0002-6639-8977; Voderholzer, Ulrich ORCID: 0000-0003-0261-3145 (2022): Changes in obsessive–compulsive symptoms during inpatient treatment of anorexia nervosa. Journal of Eating Disorders, 10: 106. ISSN 2050-2974

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Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the most prevalent comorbidities in anorexia nervosa (AN). As AN is a severe, life-threatening condition, reducing obsessive–compulsive symptomatology is not the primary objective during treatment of AN and, thus, these symptoms may remain unchanged or may even increase in terms of a “symptom shift”.

In this retrospective analysis, we examined clinical records of 149 adolescents ( n = 96, 64%) and adults ( n = 53, 36%) with AN (6 males, 4%) who received inpatient treatment and completed the Obsessive–Compulsive Inventory–Revised at admission and discharge.

Obsessive–compulsive symptoms decreased from admission to discharge, irrespective of whether patients had comorbid OCD or not. Within-person decreases in obsessive–compulsive symptoms weakly correlated with increases in body weight.

These results indicate that obsessive–compulsive symptoms decrease during inpatient treatment of AN although they are not primarily targeted during treatment. Furthermore, these improvements seem to be associated with general improvements in AN symptomatology, suggesting the absence of a “symptom shift”. Yet, effect sizes were small and obsessive–compulsive symptoms were still clinically elevated in patients with comorbid OCD at discharge, suggesting that these patients need OCD-specific, psychotherapeutic aftercare.

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