Intervening for young people with eating disorders

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Schwartz, C., Waddell, C., Barican, J., Andres, C., & Gray-Grant, D. (2015). Intervening for young people with eating disorders. Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, 9(3), 1–20. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

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Background: Although eating disorders are quite rare, they are associated with high levels of distress and impairment as well as early mortality making effective treatments imperative. 

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify randomized control trials (RCTs) evaluating interventions for children and youth with eating disorders. Applying our inclusion criteria to the 32 studies identified from our searches, we accepted eight RCTs.

Results: Our review identified effective treatments for the three most common eating disorders. Family Therapy was particularly effective for youth with anorexia nervosa. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy significantly reduced bingeing among youth with bulimia nervosa as well as youth with binge-eating disorder. In contrast, there was no evidence to support using antipsychotics to treat the core symptoms of anorexia nervosa.

Conclusions: There are effective psychosocial treatments that can greatly help young people with eating disorders. Practitioners and policy-makers need to ensure that all youth who need these treatments have ready access to them.

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