Residential treatment effective for eating disorders – Women’s Health in Focus
Findings in a Renfrew Center Foundation study show near elimination of symptoms of anorexia and bulimia during residential treatment for eating disorders. Of the women who participated in the research, a significant majority maintained their reduction in eating disordered behaviors several months or years after treatment.
Findings were based on more than a decade of research involving more than 2,000 women and adolescent girls, age 14 to 62, who were admitted to residential treatment at facilities operated by The Renfrew Center, the nation’s leading organization for the treatment of eating disorders.
In its report, “Eating Disorder Treatment Outcomes: Making an Impact,” symptomatic behaviors virtually disappeared in residential treatment, and since 1994, average overall weight gain for anorexic patients was 9.17 pounds. For all patients, test scores on depression, bulimic attitudes, and anorexic attitudes decreased significantly during the treatment.
In general, women maintain most of the gains they achieve during residential treatment. Among those who participated in a follow-up study, 82.7 percent who were diagnosed originally as anorexic no longer met full diagnostic criteria for the disorder one or more years after discharge. These women reported an overall average weight gain of 9.4 pounds since leaving treatment. In the follow-up study, 61 percent of the participants who carried an admission diagnosis of bulimia no longer met full diagnostic criteria for that disorder.
Despite widespread attention to eating disorders in popular media, little formalized research has been conducted into the effectiveness of residential treatment. William N. Davis, PhD, vice president of research for The Renfrew Center, said, “The Renfrew outcome studies strongly suggest that many women suffering from severe eating disorders can make substantial and sustainable steps toward recovery during residential treatment.”
Davis cautions that the results of the follow-up studies are based only on information received from those women who chose to provide it. “As yet, we can’t say for certain that the same successes would be reported by women who did not respond to-the follow-up survey, and we’re not certain that the measurements we used successfully captured all aspects of eating disorders.”
Kathryn Zerbe, MD, professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health Sciences University, commented, “Even when you recognize the limitations of these studies the results are significant. Now we can say that 1) eating disorder symptoms can be significantly reduced with inpatient treatment, and 2) treatment success can be maintained over time.”
The Renfrew Center Foundation is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the education, research, and treatment of eating disorders.
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