2010 issue 1


Volume 19, issue 1

World Psychiatry Forum

Salient components of a comprehensive service for eating disorders

Katharine A. Halmi1
1. Eating Disorders Program, Weill Cornell Medical College, 21 Bloomingdale Road, White Plains, NY 10605, USA
Postępy Psychiatrii i Neurologii 2010; 19(1): 5–24
Keywords: Eating disorders, comprehensive treatment, outpatient, inpatient


Eating disorders are challenging and difficult to treat, because of the necessity of a multidisciplinary treatment team for effective outcomes and the high mortality rate of anorexia nervosa. An adequate initial assessment and evaluation requires a psychiatric assessment, a medical history and medical examination, a social history and an interview of family members or collateral informants. A comprehensive eating disorder treatment team includes a psychiatrist coordinating the treatment and appropriate medical physician specialists, nutritionists, and psychotherapists. An adequate outpatient eating disorder clinic needs to provide individual psychotherapy with cognitive behavioral techniques specific for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, family therapy, pharmacological treatment and the resources to obtain appropriate laboratory tests. Eating disorder patients requiring inpatient care are best treated in a specialized eating disorder inpatient unit. A cognitive behavioral framework is most useful for the overall unit milieu. Medical management and nutritional rehabilitation are the primary goals for inpatient treatment. Various group therapies can cover common core eating disorder psychopathology problems and dialectical behavior therapy groups can be useful for managing emotional dysregulation. Residential, partial hospitalization and day treatment programs are useful for transitioning patients from an inpatient program or for patients needing some monitoring. In these programs, at least one structured meal is advisable as well as nutritional counseling, group therapy or individual counseling sessions. Group therapies usually address issues such as social skills training, social anxiety, body image distortion or maturity fears. Unfortunately there is s paucity of evidence based randomized control trials to recommend the salient components for a comprehensive service for eating disorders. Experienced eating disorder clinicians have come to the conclusion that a multidisciplinary team approach provides the most effective treatment.