In our book and on this blog, Marcia and I have written about the Maudsely method of Family Based Treatment (FBT) for anorexia nervosa. This is a form of treatment developed at the Maudsley Hospital in London that makes parents key players in their child’s recovery, putting them in control of refeeding their child or adolescent (once the child is physically out of danger) and returning her or him to health. Families and clinicians who have tried this method swear by it and there is even a website, www.maudsleyparents.org that offers information and support for families engaged in FBT. Marcia’s own Parent-Assisted Meals and Snacks (PAMS), is based on FBT principles.
There are also a number of studies being conducted on how to expand the use of this effective method of treatment. One of these is an NIH-sponsored clinical trial examining the effectiveness of FBT for early onset or emerging cases of anorexia, headed by Katharine L. Loeb, Ph.D., director of research for the Mt. Sinai Eating and Weight Disorders Program.
Dr. Loeb is seeking patients between the ages of 10 and 17 who meet at least some of the criteria to be considered anorexic, and who have one or more parents or guardians also willing to participate in the study. If your child is refusing to maintain a normal body weight, has stopped having her periods, has a fear of weight gain or poor body image, or any other symptoms of anorexia, you may be eligible for this study.
Although statistics are hard to come by, the conventional wisdom in the eating disorders treatment field is that the earlier anorexia is treated, the better the outcome. Dr. Loeb hopes her research will eventually lead to a version of FBT specifically targeted at emerging or atypical cases of anorexia, so that it can be used in efforts to prevent this pernicious disorder from fully unfolding or becoming chronic.
Getting timely treatment is difficult because the existing criteria that doctors use to diagnose anorexia are not developmentally sensitive enough to allow them to always catch anorexia in its early stages. Often the child will deny or minimize having certain symptoms, leaving the pediatrician confused about whether to label the problem anorexia. For example the child might play down symptoms for fear of being made to gain weight, quit an athletic team, or stop her excessive exercising. The difference between calling the problem “anorexia” and calling it “normal dieting behavior” could be the difference between getting the help a child needs to stop the disease in its tracks or letting it get out of hand. Dr. Loeb hopes that her study will also aid in the creation of case identification methods that enable doctors to navigate these gray areas and recognize early onset cases.
We stress in our book the importance of prevention; Dr. Loeb’s work is the kind of research we need to allow parents to fight anorexia before it becomes entrenched, before it has begun to do irreversible damage to the child’s bones, heart or brain.
To find out more about this study, which involves both family-based and individual interventions, or about other treatment options, please contact Lauren Alfano: tel. (212) 659 8724 or email, Lauren.email@example.com .