Objective: The DSM-5 includes severity specifiers (i.e., mild, moderate, severe, extreme) for anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge-eating disorder (BED), which are determined by weight status (AN) and frequencies of binge-eating episodes (BED) or inappropriate compensatory behaviors (BN). Given limited data regarding the validity of eating disorder (ED) severity specifiers, this study examined the concurrent and predictive validity of severity specifiers in AN, BN, and BED. Method: Adults with AN (n = 109), BN (n = 76), and BED (n = 216) were identified from previous datasets. Concurrent validity was assessed by measures of ED psychopathology, depression, anxiety, quality of life, and physical health. Predictive validity was assessed by ED symptoms at the end of the treatment in BN and BED. Results: Severity categories did not differ in baseline validators, though the mild AN group evidenced greater ED symptoms compared to the severe group. In BN, greater severity was related to greater end of treatment binge-eating and compensatory behaviors, and lower likelihood of abstinence; however, in BED, greater severity was related to lower ED symptoms at the end of the treatment. Discussion: Results demonstrated limited support for the validity of DSM-5 severity specifiers. Future research is warranted to explore additional validators and possible alternative indicators of severity in EDs.
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- anorexia nervosa
- binge-eating disorder
- bulimia nervosa