Parents key to beating bulimia

New research shows that therapy that includes the parents of teens suffering from bulimia is twice as successful in helping adolescents overcome the eating disorder than those undergoing psychotherapy alone.

"Parents are in a unique position to help their adolescents, yet treatment typically excludes them from the process," said Dr. Daniel Le Grange, lead author of the study, published this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry. "Now we have the evidence that we need to bring them back in."

LeGrange, director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of Chicago, and colleagues, did a comparative trial involving 80 patients, age 12 to 19, diagnosed with bulimia or with severe symptoms of the disorder, which is characterized by binging on and purging food.

Forty-one of the patients were randomly assigned to family-based treatment, the rest to supportive psychotherapy that seeks to address issues that may have triggered the disorder.

The study showed that 40 percent of teens whose families were included in the treatment program had stopped binging and purging at the end of a six-month treatment session, compared to only 18 percent who received therapy on their own.