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Family-Based Therapy Can Aid Those With Anorexia

Teaching parents to help their children with eating behaviors may lead to faster weight gain

THURSDAY, Sept. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Family-based therapies can benefit adolescents with anorexia nervosa, according to a study published online Sept. 24 in JAMA Psychiatry.

The study included more than 160 American and Canadian anorexia patients. They were between the ages of 12 and 18 and had been battling anorexia for an average of 13.5 months. Ninety percent of the patients were female. Their average body weight was at least 75 percent of what is considered ideal.

The participants were enrolled in two different types of family-based therapies. One program taught parents how to help their children eat normally and regain weight at home, while the other sought to resolve family problems. Both programs consisted of 16 one-hour sessions over nine months. The effectiveness of the therapies was evaluated at the end of the nine-month treatment period and again a year later. Patients in both therapy groups had similar rates of recovery from anorexia; however, those in the program that focused on normal eating habits gained weight faster and required less hospitalization.

The findings add to growing evidence that parental involvement is important in the treatment of adolescents with anorexia, the researchers said. "We think that parents are able to disrupt the maintaining behaviors of anorexia long enough that the thoughts and cognitions that go with the disease diminish," study coauthor James Lock, M.D., Ph.D., from Stanford University in California, said in a university news release.

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