Preferred treatment focus among college students with eating disorders and comorbid mental health problems in a digital cognitive-behavioral guided self-help program

Laura D'Adamo, Anne Claire Grammer, Gavin N. Rackoff, Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, Sarah Ketchen Lipson, Michelle G. Newman, C. Barr Taylor, Daniel Eisenberg, Denise E. Wilfley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: To examine the mental health problems that college students with eating disorders (EDs) and comorbid depression and/or anxiety disorders preferred to target first in a digital treatment program and explore correlates of preferred treatment focus. Methods: Four hundred and eighty nine college student users of a digital cognitive-behavioral guided self-help program targeting common mental health problems (76.7% female, Mage = 20.4 ± 4.4, 64.8% White) screened positive for an ED and ≥one other clinical mental health problem (i.e., depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and/or panic disorder). Students also reported on insomnia, post-traumatic stress, alcohol use, and suicide risk. Before treatment, they indicated the mental health problem that they preferred to target first in treatment. Preferred treatment focus was characterized by diagnostic profile (i.e., ED + Depression, ED + Anxiety, ED + Depression + Anxiety), symptom severity, and demographics. Results: 58% of students with ED + Anxiety, 47% of those with ED + Depression, and 27% of those with ED + Depression + Anxiety chose to target EDs first. Across diagnostic profiles, those who chose to target EDs first had more severe ED symptoms than those who chose to target anxiety or depression (ps <.05). Among students with ED + Depression + Anxiety, those who chose to target EDs first had lower depression symptoms than those who chose to target depression, lower generalized anxiety than those who chose to target anxiety, and lower suicidality than those who chose to target anxiety or depression (ps <.01). Conclusions: Students with EDs and comorbid depression and/or anxiety disorders showed variable preferred treatment focus across diagnostic profiles. Research should explore specific symptom presentations associated with preferred treatment focus. Public Significance: Findings indicate that a sizable percentage of college students with depression/anxiety who also have EDs prefer to target EDs first in treatment, highlighting the importance of increasing availability of ED interventions to college students. Students with EDs and comorbid depression and/or anxiety disorders showed variable preferred treatment focus across diagnostic profiles, and preference to target EDs was associated with greater ED psychopathology across diagnostic profiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2349-2357
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Volume56
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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