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New Methods Of Psychotherapy Treats Anorexia

Update Date: Oct 21, 2013 03:34 PM EDT

New methods of psychotherapy have been proven to be effective in treating those who suffer from a less severe anorexia disorder according to a new study. 

"In the long-term course, in up to 20 percent of the cases, anorexia leads to death, making it the most lethal of all of the mental disorders," said Professor Stephan Zipfel, director of the department for psychosomatic medicine at the University Hospital of Tübingen. "Patients with anorexia often suffer from the psychological or physical consequences of the disease their entire lives."

Patients with anorexia are extremely underweight because of their long-term restricted relationship with food. Girls and young women are among the ones who are affected most. According to the study around 1 percent of the population has anorexia nervosa. 

"Patients with anorexia have an intense fear of gaining weight and their perception of their own figure is distorted," according to Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg. "They often have other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and compulsive disorders."

For the research, The Anorexia Nervosa Treatment of OutPatients (ANTOP) study was done at ten eating disorder centers in Germany.
Researchers had three groups of around 80 patients undergo a different type of out-patient psychotherapy for 10 months. 

Out of the 242 total patients Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg said, "Around one third of the patients had to be admitted for in-patient treatment temporarily due to their poor state of health. Approx. one quarter of the patients discontinued their participation before the trial had ended." 

According to researchers the purpose of this study was to do more clinical observations because there is a lack of research for anorexia nervosa treatments. 

One of the treatments patients received was focal psychodynamic therapy, which aims to identify and assist the way patients show negative relationships and how that affects their emotions. 

Another treatment was cognitive behavior therapy. CBT's focus is to bring the patient back to a healthy weight by assisting with their weight gain and helping them with other problems that are related to the eating disorder.

The third treatment for the study was standard psychotherapy in which the patients received help from psychotherapists and family physicians. 
Researchers found that in all three groups vital weight gains were made after the therapy and at a 12 month follow-up visit. "Their BMI had increased by 1.4 BMI points on average (the equivalent of an average of 3.8 kg)," stated the study.

 "At the end of our study, focal psychodynamic therapy proved to be the most successful method, while the specific cognitive behavior therapy resulted in more rapid weight gain," said Zipfel.   

Furthermore, the patients undergoing focal psychodynamic therapy required additional in-patient treatment less often. 

Researchers also found that in-patient treatment decreased in those who underwent the focal psychodynamic therapy. 

"While the acceptance of the two new psychotherapy methods by the patients was very high, at 1 year after the end of therapy, approx. one quarter of the patients continued to have full syndrome anorexia nervosa," according to Heidelberg. 

Researchers had success in therapies that improved recovery for anorexia patients but a continuous challenge for them is to find a means of prevention and early treatment. 

The findings are published in the journal The Lancet.

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