Background Currently, without systematic evidence, psychotherapy for anorexia nervosa in adults draws on psychodynamic, cognitive and systemic theories.
Aims To assess effectiveness of specific psychotherapies in out-patient management of adult patients with anorexia nervosa.
Method Eighty-four patients were randomised to four treatments: three specific psychotherapies — (a) a year of focal psychoanalytic psychotherapy; (b) 7 months of cognitive—analytic therapy (CAT); (c) family therapy for 1 year — and (d) low contact, ‘routine’ treatment for 1 year (control).
Results At 1 year, there was symptomatic improvement in the whole group of patients. This improvement was modest, several patients being significantly undernourished at follow-up. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy and family therapy were significantly superior to the control treatment; CAT tended to show benefits.
Conclusions Psychoanalytic and family therapy are of specific value in the out-patient treatment of adult patients with anorexia.
- © 2001 Royal College of Psychiatrists