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Family-Based Treatment for Anorexia

Posted on October 7, 2010

New research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry this month suggests that family-based treatment may be an effective long-term strategy for treating anorexia-nervosa in adolescents. As featured in the New York Times, these results are based on a longitudinal, randomized control trial involving 120 adolescents.

The adolescents involved received either traditional individual-based therapy for anorexia or family-based treatment. Family-based treatment is designed to give parents the tools to first help their child gain weight and then to address other mental health issues that may be associated with anorexia. This is different than traditional therapy both in the emphasis on the role of the family and in addressing weight gain as the first step in treatment.

In the study, both individual and family-based treatment strategies were effective in treating patients with anorexia in the short-term. However, adolescents receiving family-based therapy were far less likely to relapse. After one year of treatment, only 10 percent of patients receiving family-based treatment had experienced a relapse of anorexia, compared to 40 percent of those receiving traditional individual treatment. These results suggest that family-based treatment may be a more effective strategy for treating adolescents suffering from anorexia.

Read the New York Times article.

Read the original article published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Dr. Eileen Anderson-Fye, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at CWRU and a Schubert Center Faculty Associate, also conducts research on adolescent mental health, and has specifically examined the phenomenon of eating disorders in other cultural context.

Dr. Arin Connell, Assistant Professor of Psychology at CWRU and a Schubert Center Faculty Associate, also conducts research on adolescent mental health, and has specifically examined the role of family in treatment of adolescent mental health disorders.

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