When I first started working with patients with eating disorders, I was struck by how their family situations often triggered or facilitated in some way the development of their eating disorder.  Much of current treatment for anorexia has centered on individual therapy.  A current study published by Lock at Stanford notes:

“The researchers evaluated each patient’s condition at the start and end of the one-year treatment period, and then again six and 12 months after treatment ended. Patients were considered in full remission if they reached 95 percent of normal body weight and had a normal score on a standardized psychiatric assessment of attitudes about eating. At the end of the study, 49.3 percent of family-based therapy patients were in full remission, whereas 23.2 percent of individual psychotherapy patients were in full remission. The two treatments were equally effective in helping patients achieve partial remission, characterized by reaching a body weight of 85 percent of normal.”

This study is a huge leap forward in the right direction and will hopefully put much needed focus again on what matters: good nutrition / weight restoration and family therapy.  This study was done on 12-18 year olds who often improve dramatically in treatment only to be sent home to families that are dysfunctional or at best, don’t understand the disease of anorexia.

This supports my own approach in treating eating disorders.  I hope that parents searching for help for their teens with anorexia will recognize the need not for blame in the family but for families to work as one unit in handling this serious condition, in much the same way we expect our families to work together to help their kids with cancer or diabetes.