Aug 17, 2019 | Updated: 07:24 AM EDT

Family-Based Approach: Best Treatment For Bulimia

Sep 23, 2015 12:45 AM EDT

Family-based therapy for patients with bulimia are higly effective, study revealed
(Photo : Polly)

A research conducted by scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, revealed last Friday, September 18 that, contrary to traditional practice, adolescents suffering from bulimia recover faster when family is involved in the treatment process.

In a university press release, Daniel Le Grange, the Benioff UCSF professor in children's hospital at the University of California said that "Parents need to be actively involved in the treatment of kids and teens with eating disorders.

This study shows definitively that parental engagement is imperative for a successful outcome of adolescents with bulimia nervosa. It goes counter to the training that physicians receive in psychiatry, which teaches that parents are to blame for bulimia, and therefore should be omitted from treatment."

Bulimia nervosa as defined  by the National Eating Disorders Association is an episode of alternate binging and compensatory behaviour where patients would indulge in vomiting, use of laxatives or diuretics, fast, or perform intense exercises to heigten preoccupation with the body weight. The disease is usually linked with depression and alterations in the environment. It affects roughly 2 per cent of young people and mostly are female.

The study compared two different therapies, namely, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and family-based therapy (FBT). The earlier involves patients' understanding and mechanism of the behaviour, while the latter entails the presence of family, specifically parents, to allow them to understand and provide for their child's need for support and protection.

Research was done with adolescents aged between 12 and 18 years diagnosed with bulimia. There were 130 participants randomly designated whether to obtain CBT or FBT. The study lasted for two years with 18 sessions.

Results obtained on three occasions revealed the following: On initial follow-up, 39 per cent of participants on FBT no longer indulges on bulimic compensatory behaviours compared with CBT at 20 perc ent. Six months after, FBT increased to 44 per cent, while CBT tails behind with 25 per cent relief from  the cycling behaviour. And on the 12th month, nearly half of the participants have been abstinent from purging and binging for FBT, whereas only 32 per cent showed successful treatment procedure for CBT.

With the result in hand, a conclusion can be drawn that FBT is indeed effective compared with CBT. "These findings are quite clear. FBT is the treatment of choice for adolescents with bulimia nervosa, because it works quicker and faster and maintains its impact over time. CBT could be a useful alternative if FBT were not available, but it needs to be recognized that it doesn't work quite as fast and takes time to catch up," Le Grange said.

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