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Family therapy preferable for anorexia treatment

By Adam Legge

Family-based therapy is more effective at treating anorexia than therapy focusing on the individual, according to a US study.

Researchers randomised 121 patients with anorexia, aged between 12 and 18, to receive 24 hours of either family based therapy or individual therapy for a year.

Six months after therapy 40% of the family therapy group were in full remission compared to 18% of the individual group.

Full remission was defined as 95% of the normal weight expected for the patient’s sex, age, and height and a normal global Eating Disorders Examination score.

Only 15% of patients in the family therapy group were hospitalised during the study person compared to 37% of those having individual therapy.

Study leader Professor James Lock professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Stanford University said: ‘This study strongly suggests that as a first-line treatment, in general, family-based interventions are superior.

‘We found that on average, family therapy was about twice as effective at promoting full weight restoration and recovery of eating disorder symptoms compared with individual therapy. Both treatments were helpful in improving symptoms to a certain degree, but family treatment was twice as effective in getting someone well.’

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67:1025-1032.