Problematic physical activity (PPA) is a symptom commonly present in patients suffering from anorexia nervosa (AN). This study aims to refine the clinical description of children with early-onset AN and adolescents with standard-onset AN and associated PPA, in order to better understand their associated features, and to offer them adapted care and physical activity programs.
107 participants treated at the Salvator University Hospital Centre of Marseille for AN were retrospectively evaluated by the Exercise Dependence Scale Revised concerning PPA. Other self-report questionnaires were used to evaluate eating disorder, anxiety and depressive symptoms, quality of life, emotions, sleep, and attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity.
In the entire sample, the presence of PPA was associated with significantly higher levels of eating disorder (EDI-2: p = 0.001) and body image concerns (p = 0.002), anxiety (STAI-Y-trait: p = 0.013) and depression (p = 0.006), as well as significantly lower psychological well-being (p < 0.001) and quality of life (p < 0.001) and impaired sleep (PSQI: p = 0.008). The early-onset group showed a lower prevalence of PPA than the standard-onset group (p < 0.05) but their clinical symptomatology, when this symptom was present, was significantly more severe (EDI-2: p < 0.01; BSQ: p < 0.05; CDI: p < 0.05; STAI-Y-trait: p < 0.05).
PPA appears to be associated with more severe features in patients with early-onset AN, which seems to differ from standard-onset. It seems necessary to refine our knowledge on the involvement of PPA in the severity of AN, especially in patients with early-onset AN who remain little studied so far.
Level V, descriptive study (evaluation data retrospectively studied).