Social phobia, depression and eating disorders during middle adolescence: longitudinal associations and treatment seeking

Klaus Ranta, Juha Väänänen, Sari Fröjd, Rasmus Isomaa, Riittakerttu Kaltiala-Heino, Mauri Marttunen

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Background: Longitudinal associations between social phobia (SP), depression and eating disorders (EDs), and the impact of antecedent SP and depression on subsequent treatment seeking for EDs have rarely been explored in prospective adolescent population studies.Aim: We aimed to examine these associations in a large-scale follow-up study among middle adolescents.Method: We surveyed 3278 Finnish adolescents with a mean age of 15years for these disorders. Two years later, 2070 were reached and again surveyed for psychopathology and treatment seeking. Longitudinal associations between the self-reported disorders and treatment-seeking patterns for self-acknowledged ED symptoms were examined in multivariate analyses, controlling for SP/depression comorbidity and relevant socioeconomic covariates.Results: Self-reported anorexia nervosa (AN) at age 15years predicted self-reported depression at age 17years. Furthermore, self-reported SP at age 15years predicted not seeking treatment for bulimia nervosa (BN) symptoms, while self-reported depression at age 15years predicted not seeking treatment for AN symptoms during the follow-up period.Conclusions: Adolescents with AN should be monitored for subsequent depression. Barriers caused by SP to help seeking for BN, and by depression for AN, should be acknowledged by healthcare professionals who encounter socially anxious and depressive adolescents, especially when they present with eating problems.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)605–613
Number of pages9
JournalNordic Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • treatment seeking
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Social phobia

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