Bulimia patients age 12 to 19 years who received family-based treatment were less likely to continue to binge and purge than those who received supportive psychotherapy, which explores the underlying issues of the disorder, according to a report in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Bulimia nervosa (BN) is a disabling eating disorder with a prevalence of 1 percent to 2 percent among adolescents, while another 2 percent to 3 percent of adolescents present with bulimic symptoms that are clinically significant but do not meet full threshold criteria, according to background information in the article. The disorder is characterized by episodes of excessive eating, or bingeing, combined with inappropriate weight loss methods, such as purging (vomiting), using laxatives or exercising obsessively.
Daniel le Grange, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago, and colleagues analyzed 80 patients (age 12 to 19, average age 16.1), 37 with bulimia and 43 with bulimic symptoms. Between 2001 and 2006, 41 were randomly assigned to family-based treatment and 39 to supportive psychotherapy. Family-based treatment involves parents, does not address underlying causes of the condition, seeks to separate bulimics from their symptoms and empowers them to change their behaviors. Supportive psychotherapy does not contain active advice on changing eating patterns, but instead helps patients resolve underlying emotional issues at the root of the disorder. The patients each attended 20 outpatient visits over six months and were assessed before treatment, midway through, immediately following and at six months after treatment.
More patients receiving family-based treatment (16, or 39 percent) than supportive psychotherapy (7, or 18 percent) achieved remissiondefined as abstaining from binge eating and compensatory behavior, such as purgingimmediately following treatment. Somewhat fewer patients were abstinent at t
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