The validity of DSM-5 severity specifiers for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder

Kathryn E. Smith, Jo M. Ellison, Ross D. Crosby, Scott G. Engel, James E. Mitchell, Scott J. Crow, Carol B. Peterson, Daniel Le Grange, Stephen A. Wonderlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1109-1113
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • DSM-5
  • anorexia nervosa
  • binge-eating disorder
  • bulimia nervosa
  • severity


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