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Salud mental

versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325

Resumo

LEIJA ESPARZA, Mauricio; SAUCEDA GARCIA, Juan Manuel  e  ULLOA FLORES, Rosa Elena. Family characteristics and eating disorders in a sample of female adolescent inpatients in a psychiatric hospital. Salud Ment [online]. 2011, vol.34, n.3, pp.203-210. ISSN 0185-3325.

Background From the first descriptions of the eating disorders, researchers have found that the families of patients with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa present high levels of family dysfunction. These families tend to differ from the control families, mainly because they present a greater frequency of conflicts and disorganization, less adaptability and cohesion, poor care of the parents towards their children, presence of overprotection, less orientation towards recreational activities and less emotional support. Several authors have suggested that a family adverse environment might represent an important etiologic factor for the development of an eating disorder. Nevertheless, the symptoms more related to degree of dysfunction or to quality of family environment in such patients have not been identified. Objective To describe the frequency of the eating disorders as well as eating disorder not otherwise specified in a sample of inpatient female adolescents; and to establish the relationship that functioning and quality of the family environment hold with the severity and/or characteristics of the eating psychopathology. Subjects and methods The study included a group of 36 female adolescents hospitalized due to any type of psychopathology in the Children's Psychiatric Hospital Dr. Juan N. Navarro. The study sample consisted of all the patients who wanted to be included and who fulfilled the inclusion criteria. A written informed consent was obtained from parents as approved by the Department of Research of the Children's Psychiatric Hospital Dr. Juan N. Navarro. Diagnostic categories in the sample, including eating disorders, were based on the Mini-International Neuropsychiatrie Interview -Kid (MINI-Kid). Those that presented an eating disorder not otherwise specified were diagnosed with a clinical interview based on DSM-IV criteria. In addition, the patients answered a series of self reports: the Eating Disorder Inventory, the General Functioning Subscale of the McMaster Family Assessment Device and the Child Figure Rating Scale. The body dissatisfaction was considered if the patient had negative scores (she wanted to be thinner) in the Child Figure Rating Scale. The score on the Global Family Environment Scale was obtained through a non-structured interview concerning the quality of the family environment (assessed in retrospect) and this information was complemented with that contained in each patient's medical chart. Results From the 36 patients included, 39% presented an eating disorder (17% a specific disorder and 22% an eating disorder not otherwise specified), 42% presented only body dissatisfaction and 19% of the sample was free of eating psychopathology. The average of the body mass index was within the normal range (23.2 kg/m2); nevertheless the average score of the Eating Disorder Inventory (58.22) was higher than what some authors have suggested as cut point score for anorexia nervosa. The average score of the General Functioning Subscale of the McMaster Family Assessment Device (2.16) was in the low normal limit and the Global Family Environment Scale showed an average (62.8) that would correspond to a moderately unsatisfactory family environment. The total sample was divided in two subgroups; the first included the patients who fulfilled the criteria for eating disorder (including an eating disorder not otherwise specified) and the second subgroup included the rest of the patients. There were not significant differences in the type or number of comorbid disorders. The mean scores of the Eating Disorder Inventory were higher in the subgroup with eating disorder with a statistically significant difference (p<0.01). In a similar way, the dissatisfaction with the weight and the current figure as well as the dissatisfaction to future showed statistically significant differences (p<0.01). The score in the scales of functioning and quality of the family environment did not show statistically significant differences. We also divided the whole sample in two subgroups, one with family dysfunction (as determined by the General Functioning Subscale of the McMaster Family Assessment Device ≥2.17), and the other without family dysfunction (scored <2.17). The group with family dysfunction presented a higher frequency of major depressive disorder and social phobia with a statistically significant difference (p<0.05). In a similar fashion, we divided the sample in two subgroups, one with high to moderate quality family environment (score in the Global Family Environment Scale >70) and a second one with low quality family environment (score <70). Nevertheless, these subgroups did not show statistically significant differences concerning psychopathological disorders. We found a positive correlation (r=0.34) among the total score of the Eating Disorder Inventory and the score of the General Functioning Subscale of the McMaster Family Assessment Device (p<0.05). The subscale of the Eating Disorder Inventory that had higher correlation was bulimic symptomatology (r=0.51) followed by ineffectiveness (r=0.43), both statistically significant (p<0.01). On the other hand, the Global Family Environment Scale did not show significant correlations with the Eating Disorder Inventory. Conclusions Eating disorders represent an important cause of morbidity in adolescent female inpatients; likewise, the patients were more frequently diagnosed with an eating disorders not otherwise specified than with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (in the sample recruited for the present study, we found that the eating disorders not otherwise specified represented 56% of the total of eating disorders), making the early detection necessary for the beginning of treatments directed to avoid the evolution to severe forms. We need to pay attention to «atypical» conditions that do not fulfill the full diagnostic criteria for anorexia or bulimia, as they may be in fact associated with important levels of dysfunction and comorbidity. The dissatisfaction with the weight and figure was shown by the majority of the patients who were hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. Adolescence can be accompanied by great dissatisfaction with self appearance; nevertheless, to determine the relevance of this phenomenon as a risk factor for the development of an eating disorder, follow-up studies with bigger samples are needed. Family dysfunction is a variable that relates to the severity of the eating disorders, mainly the bulimic symptoms. From this perspective these findings seem to support the psychodynamic interpretation of bulimia nervosa, where bingeing symbolizes the marked dependence to significant figures, and vomiting the desire to expel an evil introjected object. Nevertheless, given the impossibility to do inferences beyond a simple association among variables, another explanation could be that the aforementioned symptoms were damaging the family functioning, creating in this way a vicious circle. This finding may be important to determine which group of symptoms could be expected to improve after a family intervention directed to treat an eating disorder. The lack of correlations between the Global Family Environment Scale and the Eating Disorder Inventory could be explained by the fact that the Global Family Environment Scale evaluates functioning during the worst year of the patients' life, which could be during their first five years, thus its effect⁄impact on current psychopathology could not be established.

Palavras-chave : Family environment; family functioning; eating disorders; body dissatisfaction; adolescent inpatients.

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