Magazine article Science News

Starved for Assistance: Coercion Finds a Place in the Treatment of Two Eating Disorders

Magazine article Science News

Starved for Assistance: Coercion Finds a Place in the Treatment of Two Eating Disorders

Article excerpt

Many people with serious eating disorders seek mental-health care only after they are pressured into it by concerned clinicians, family, friends, and employers. Although these cases make psychiatrists uncomfortable, a new study suggests that coercion plays a valuable role in jumpstarting participation in the treatment of eating disorders.

A team of psychiatrists studied people with eating disorders who had denied a need for treatment when they were admitted to a hospital clinic. Nearly half changed their minds and acknowledged the necessity of treatment within 2 weeks of being hospitalized, reports Angela S. Guarda of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

The predominantly female patients included many with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. In the former disorder, a person typically loses weight through starvation and exercise. People with bulimia alternate food-eating binges with induced vomiting.

The new study, published in the January American Journal of Psychiatry, focused on 139 patients admitted to a Johns Hopkins treatment program for eating disorders between January 2000 and February 2003. Patients ranged in age from 15 to 35. The program concentrates on establishing proper eating habits, restoring weight, and developing healthy attitudes toward food and personal appearance.

Each patient completed a 13-item questionnaire upon entering the program and again after 2 weeks of treatment. The questionnaire asked patients whether they needed hospitalization, whether they were coerced to join the program, and what their perceptions were of the hospital-admission process. …

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