A new study has revealed that teens with bulimia may only need their parents’ help to get better. Researchers from Stanford University and the University of Chicago say that those whose parents assist them in overcoming their abnormal eating habits recover faster.
MD, PhD James Lock, professor of behavioral sciences and psychiatry with the Stanford School of Medicine and co-lead author, offered a statement explaining that field experts “have very little information about how best to address bulimia in adolescents, and have been depending on what we know about the efficacy of treatment in adults”.
But he added that the treatment that helps adult patients may not be the same one that helps teen patients. They simply have different needs. While adults benefit most from cognitive behavioral therapy, professor Lock and his team showed that teens benefit most from family-based therapy.
Bulimia nervosa is an increasingly popular eating disorder. It’s characterized by frequent cycles of binge eating, followed by a purging of calories due to fear of gaining weight. The body is deprived of nutrition via laxative use, vomiting, and even excessive exercise.
The condition has been linked not only to physical harm, but also to psychological harm. Bulimia patients often feel ashamed or guilty, and usually have a poor image of themselves. On the physical side of the equation, patients are at risk of developing, tooth and / or gum disease, dehydration, irregular heartbeats, and heart failure.
For their study, the researchers looked at 130 subjects, in the 12 to 18 age range, all with either full bulimia or partial bulimia, and reached the conclusion that teen patients have a much higher change of getting better when they receive help from their parents, rather than a therapist or a physician.
Professor Lock and his team randomly assigned each subject to one (1) of the three (3) following treatments: family-based therapy, meaning that parents actively helped their child interrupt the abnormal eating behavior, cognitive behavioral therapy, meaning that therapists actively helped their patients change their poor body image and abnormal food thoughts, and supportive psychotherapy, which was only meant to generate hypotheses for further research and was not used by the research team in the primary analysis of the results. Each treatment lasted for six (6) months.
The experiment revealed that family-based therapy works best for treating teen bulimia patients.
When the six (6) months of therapy ended, 39 percent (39%) of the bulimia patients who received family-based therapy had overcome their eating disorder, whereas just 20 percent (20%) of the bulimia patients who received cognitive behavioral therapy had overcome their eating disorder
What’s more, six (6) months after therapy ended, 44 percent (44%) of the bulimia patients who received family-based therapy were still holding on to a healthy eating pattern, whereas just 25 percent (25%) of the bulimia patients who received cognitive behavioral therapy were still holding on to a healthy eating pattern.
The findings were published earlier this month, on September 17, 2015, in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
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