Rethinking treatment goals improves results for those with persistent anorexia

Daniel Le Grange, PhD

Patients with severe and enduring anorexia nervosa are notoriously difficult to treat, and it has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Most patients do not respond to treatment, but a new, multinational randomized clinical trial conducted in part by Daniel Le Grange, director of the University of Chicago’s eating disorders program, has found that patients will not only stick with treatments but also make significant improvements when their treatment goals were set collaboratively, by the care team and the patient, with less emphasis on weight gain and more on quality of life, reduction of mood disorders, and enhanced social adjustment.

More than 85 percent of those who enrolled in the trial completed treatment—almost three times the usual retention rate. Read more in our Newsroom:

“The results were far better than most people in the field would have expected,” said Daniel Le Grange, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of the eating disorders program at the University of Chicago and the principal investigator for the data-coordinating center. “Many of these patients were profoundly ill. The prevailing wisdom is that current treatments have not been effective and patients are best served by refeeding in the hospital setting. This study showed that specific modification of these behavioral approaches could overcome the high dropout rates and lead to meaningful positive change.”

Science Life spoke to Le Grange last fall about his research on using chat rooms to facilitate family-based treatment for eating disorders. Find out more about the UChicago Eating Disorders Program.

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Touyz S, Le Grange D, Lacey H, Hay P, Smith R, Maguire S, Bamford B, Pike KM, & Crosby RD (2013). Treating severe and enduring anorexia nervosa: a randomized controlled trial. Psychological medicine, 1-11 PMID: 23642330

About Matt Wood (465 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer for the University of Chicago Medicine and editor of the Science Life blog.
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