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Bulimia Study

 

When caring for an adolescent suffering with an eating disorder for any length of time, you soon realize how invaluable earlier diagnosis and treatment become in making purposeful and healthy strides forward, as well as any necessary changes and re-strategizing needed to better support a loved ones recovery process.

And while there is a better knowledge base available regarding eating disorders today, studies and research of “what works” and “what doesn’t” in the real day to day of those living with this illness, and how to better train, educate and provide for those treatment services are still slowly surfacing.

Dr James Lock, whom many a parent are familiar with from his work and book: Help Your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder is spearheading one of the Largest-Ever Bulimia Study  involving adolescents suffering from bulimia through Stanford University:

…psychiatrists at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of Chicago are seeking volunteers for the largest-ever randomized controlled trial of bulimia treatments for adolescents.

Only two small randomized trials have previously been done in this age group. “We desperately need more information,” said James Lock, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford and the study’s senior investigator. Lock is also director of psychiatric services at the Comprehensive Eating Disorders Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Prior bulimia-treatment trials focused on adult patients, Lock said, which is why the National Institute of Mental Health awarded his team a five-year, $2 million grant to compare bulimia treatments for young people. Full-blown bulimia affects 1 to 2 percent of adolescents, and another 2 to 3 percent display significant bulimic behaviors, Lock noted. Female patients outnumber males by five to one, he said.

The team will study three treatments that may help adolescent bulimics. Study subjects will be randomly assigned to receive 20 outpatient consultations using cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy or individual psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is widely recognized as the preferred bulimia treatment for adults, whereas family therapy is used in teens with anorexia nervosa. Individual psychotherapy has succeeded as an alternate treatment for bulimic adults and adolescents.

Interested individuals should contact research assistant Brittany Alvy at (650) 723-9182.

The pathology Lock hopes to heal stems from poor body image and an unhealthy focus on rigid dieting. Strict dieting sets up patients for lapses of control—binge-eating episodes. After binge eating on thousands of calories, patients purge with vomiting, laxatives or excessive exercise. They then feel guilty over their loss of control, fueling further negative thoughts and deepening the downward spiral.

Cognitive behavioral therapy works on changing patients’ behaviors and thinking patterns related to food and to body image. The therapist aims to help the patient stop thoughts that overemphasize the importance of weight and shape and end severe, destructive dieting. Family therapy focuses solely on eating behaviors.

The patient’s parents are involved in every therapy session, and the underlying goal is to change the home environment so that it reinforces healthy eating and discourages dieting. “In this treatment, we see parents as a resource to facilitate behavioral change,” Lock said. Individualized psychotherapy, rather than targeting eating, examines underlying life problems that contribute to negative self-image. 

“We hope early intervention will become a chronic, long-lasting strategy,” Lock said. Instead of treating bulimia in adulthood, “after the horse is out of the barn,” early treatment has a better shot at causing a lasting cure, he added.

About Stanford University Medical Center Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions — Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please visit the Web site of the medical center’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs at http://mednews.stanford.edu/.

About Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Ranked as one of the best pediatric hospitals in the nation by U.S.News & World Report and Child magazine, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford is a 272-bed hospital devoted to the care of children and expectant mothers. Providing pediatric and obstetric medical and surgical services and associated with the Stanford University School of Medicine, Packard Children’s offers patients locally, regionally and nationally the full range of health care programs and services — from preventive and routine care to the diagnosis and treatment of serious illness and injury. For more information, visit http://www.lpch.org/.

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