A large-scale study has now shown that adult women with anorexia whose disorder is not too severe can be treated successfully on an out-patient basis. Even after conclusion of therapy, they continue to make significant weight gains. Two new psychotherapeutic methods offer improved opportunities for successful therapy.
However, one quarter of the patients participating in the study did not show rapid results. These are the findings of the world’s largest therapy trial on anorexia nervosa published in the renowned medical journal The Lancet. The Anorexia Nervosa Treatment of OutPatients (ANTOP) study was conducted at ten German university eating disorder centers and was designed by the departments for psychosomatic medicine at the university hospitals of Heidelberg (Director: Prof. Wolfgang Herzog) and Tübingen (Director: Prof. Stephan Zipfel).
Psychotherapy has been recognized as the treatment of choice for anorexia nervosa and in Germany, is covered by health insurance. However, to date there have been no large-scale clinical studies that examine the efficacy of different treatment methods on a comparative basis, constituting a glaring research gap considering the severity of the disease.
Anorexia nervosa – the most lethal mental disorder
“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. Patients with anorexia often suffer from the psychological or physical consequences of the disease their entire lives,” explained Prof. Zipfel. To date, no convincing studies on specific therapy programs have been available in adults.
Furthermore, randomized controlled studies comparing promising therapy methods are rare. “Well-controlled, clinical studies with a high level of reliability are rare, especially for out-patient therapy, creating enormous problems,” said Prof. Herzog.
Around 1 percent of the population has anorexia nervosa, with the disorder affecting nearly only girls and young women. Patients with anorexia are very underweight due to their long-term food restriction and, in many cases, their urge to over-exercise. Self-induced vomiting, the use of laxatives, diuretics or appetite suppressants exacerbate the weight loss. The patients’ body weight is no more than 85 percent of normal weight (body mass index (BMI) of less than 17.5 kg/m²). Patients with anorexia have an intense fear of gaining weight and their perception of their own figure is distorted. They often have other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and compulsive disorders.
Treatment by experienced psychotherapists in cooperation with family physicians
The ANTOP study, which accompanied 242 adult women over a period of 22 months (10 months of therapy, 12 months of follow-up observation) now allows scientific conclusions to be drawn about the efficacy of different types of psychotherapy for the first time. Three groups of either 82 or 80 patients each underwent a different method of out-patient psychotherapy. The therapy involved two new psychotherapy methods that were specially developed for out-patient treatment of anorexia and an optimized form of the currently practiced standard psychotherapy (“optimized treatment as usual”). For the specific therapies, treatment manuals were developed in conjunction with international eating disorder experts. The therapy comprises 40 out-patient individual therapy sessions over a period of 10 months.
For all 242 patients, specially trained psychotherapists conducted the therapy with the patients. The patients’ family physicians were informed about the therapy and were involved in the treatments and the patients were examined by their family physician at least once a month. 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.
Three psychotherapy methods were compared:
1. Focal psychodynamic therapy addresses the way negative associations of relationships and disturbances affect the way patients process emotions. The working relationship between the therapist and the patient plays a key role in this method. The patients are specifically prepared for everyday life after conclusion of the therapy.
2. Cognitive behavior therapy has two focuses: normalization of the eating behavior and weight gain, as well as addressing the problem areas connected to the eating disorders, such as deficits in social competence or in problem-solving ability. The patients are also assigned “homework” by their therapists.
3. Standard psychotherapy was conducted as optimized treatment as usual by experienced psychotherapists selected by the patients themselves. The patients’ family physicians were included in the treatment. The patients also visited their respective study center five times during the study.
Specific psychotherapies offer realistic chances for cure
The patients with anorexia in all three groups had made significant weight gains after the end of 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). “Overall, the two new types of therapy demonstrated advantages compared to the optimized therapy as usual,” said Prof. Zipfel. “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.” Furthermore, the patients undergoing focal psychodynamic therapy required additional in-patient treatment less often. 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.
The scientists from Tübingen and Heidelberg drew the following conclusion: The specific therapies give adult patients a realistic chance of recovery or long-term improvement. However, great challenges for the prevention and early treatment of anorexia nervosa remain.Media Contact
Email: email@example.comCo-head of the ANTOP Study
See Online/Comment : Bulik CM. The challenge of treating anorexia nervosa. The Lancet http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61940-6Heidelberg University Hospital and Medical Faculty:
Dr. Annette Tuffs | idw
Oxygen can wake up dormant bacteria for antibiotic attacks
08.12.2016 | Penn State
NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology
07.12.2016 | Nanyang Technological University
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences