Parental help in eating disorders
TRADITIONALLY, parents have not been part
of the therapy given to adolescents with
eating disorders. Might involving family
members be helpful?
A study randomly assigned 80 adolescents
with bulimia to receive individual
psychotherapy or family-based treatment of
20 sessions over six months.
Individual therapy focused on issues
underlying the eating disorder; in family
therapy, parents and sometimes siblings also
attended sessions, and parents encouraged
good eating habits and monitored behavior
By the end of treatment, 39% of the
adolescents in family therapy, compared with
18% of those in individual therapy, had
stopped bingeing and purging. The behavioral changes occurred more quickly in
the family therapy group. Six months later,
more family therapy participants remained
free of bulimia symptoms (29% vs. 10%).
Who may be affected? Young people with
bulimia, in which overeating is followed by
purging, often by self-induced vomiting or the
use of laxatives.
Caveats: Adolescents taking
antidepressants, some of which have anti-
bulimic effects, were not excluded from the
study. Participants with eating disorders
other than bulimia were not included.
Although family therapy participants
improved more than the others, the authors
noted that the relatively low success rates
"leave considerable room for improvement".