Detection of Anorexia Nervosa in Primary Care: The Effects of Patient Ethnicity, History of Mental Illness, Physician Gender, and Years of Experience

Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Stacey Cahn, PhD, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Robert DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP

Third Advisor

Harry Morris, DO, MPH


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious disorder with high rates of mortality. Current treatments have demonstrated small to moderate benefits, so AN experts are calling for greater emphasis on preventative care, particularly in the primary care setting. Individuals with AN attend more primary care appointments than age-matched controls, which suggests that primary care physicians (PCPs) have opportunities to detect AN in its early phases. Though PCPs may have these opportunities, half of all AN cases go undetected by PCPs. This study used videotaped vignettes of primary care encounters and asked PCP participants to diagnose the patient. Overall, the AN was detected and diagnosed 61% of the time, which is consistent with past research findings. This study also found that demographic variables implicated in past studies, such as gender and ethnicity of the patient or PCP, did not impact the likelihood of diagnosing AN.

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