The accuracy of symptom recall in eating disorders

Carol B. Peterson, Kathryn B. Miller, Joy Johnson-Lind, Scott J. Crow, Paul Thuras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to assess how accurately patients with eating disorders recall their symptoms after 6 to 12 months, to evaluate whether more recent symptoms are remembered more accurately, and to determine the extent to which the accuracy of recall impacts diagnostic classification. Seventy women who were enrolled in a longitudinal study of eating disorder symptoms were asked to recall their eating patterns, behaviors, and attitudes from 6 or 12 months earlier using semistructured interviews (Eating Disorders Examination and McKnight Longitudinal Follow-up Interview for Eating Disorders). Results indicated that correlations between the original and recalled data for frequency of objective binge eating episodes and vomiting ranged from r = .534 to .898 (average, r = .772), with lower correlations for subjective binge eating episodes (average, r = .335). Attitudes toward shape and weight were recalled more accurately at 6 months (average, r = .907) than 12 months (average, r = .620). κ Coefficients were higher for eating disorder diagnoses using broad than narrow definitions, with no differences between 6- and 12-month recall. Overall, agreement for depression recall was low but better at 6 months (κ = .423) than 12 months (κ = .296). These findings suggest that patients with eating disorders are at least moderately accurate when recalling most symptoms from 6 to 12 months earlier. Although broadly defined eating disorder diagnoses remained consistent, depression and narrower eating disorder diagnostic classifications showed more variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-56
Number of pages6
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the McKnight Foundation, National Institutes of Health (R01-MH59234; R01-MH/DK 58820; R01-MH 59100; R01-MH 66287; K02-MH65919), and the National Institutes of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01-DK61912; R01-DK60432; R01-DK 61973; P30-DK50456).

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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