Anorexia Nervosa in Adolescence. Family-based treatment

A short overview

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2020

7 Pages



Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that targets mainly adolescents. Females more than men are likely to have this disorder. There are many ways of treatment, some include hospitalization, and some are based on family-based treatment. In this paper I will discuss Family Based Treatment as I believe it’s crucial. Family plays an important role and can help in changing their family member eating habits. Ways a family can help to change eating habits are Reduce meal anxiety, Siblings relationship, enabling new ways of understanding and relating, enhancing or maintain negative power dynamics, and vulnerable transitions. They are further discussed in the paper.

Anorexia Nervosa in Adolescence

Anorexia nervosa mainly hits people in early adolescence, females more than men with a ratio of 10:1. It is an eating disorder in which the person always feels that he/she is fat, and desire thinness. By doing so they are harming themselves through starvation and this could lead to death. Anorexia nervosa is linked to the most deaths of all psychiatric diseases (Lock, 2019). Death is the outcome of poor nutrition, which is related to cardiovascular dysrhythmia, as well as some patients die by committing suicide. Even when they are really thin, people with anorexia nervosa always see themselves as fat. .It has been discovered that there is a heritable factor to this disorder. Features of anorexia nervosa include severe dieting which results in having low nutrition and will not meet energy needs. Fear of getting fat or weight gain is also an important feature to anorexia nervosa. Believing that one is fat while in reality they are not. Weight loss and not eating well is linked to many medical issues such as bradycardia, dysthymia, and amenorrhea and many more (Lock, 2019). Treatments may include hospitalization which has been one of the most recommended treatments for anorexia nervosa. Hospitalization was to stabilize the loss of nutrition due to not eating and weight loss (Lock, 2019). They are many possible forms treatments of patients with anorexia nervosa.

Society plays an important role when it comes to anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa doesn’t distinguish between ethnicities, but most come from a high socioeconomic status. They are well educated, from middle to upper class families, and they are competitive and high achievers (Santrock, 2014). Although genes have to do with anorexia nervosa, but society plays a bigger role. Due to the fact that all models are thin, this contributes for people to become thin. As they perceive thinness is the only way for beauty (Santrock, 2014). Social media plays a role in this as well, there was a research done to see the effects of social media on anorexia nervosa. It showed that having an increase in friends on Facebook was linked to motivation to becoming thin (Santrock, 2014).

These treatments for anorexia nervosa can be known as family-based treatment. Family based treatment is basically a treatment that seeks to avoid hospitalization and makes parents interact in the process of restoring their offspring back to healthy lifestyle and in this case hence back to a healthy weight. Some FBT are required when hospitalization is in process, they work with the hospitalization hand by hand to ensure and effective treatment for the patient.

When one family member has anorexia nervosa the whole house is affected (Nilsen, Hage, Ro,Halvorsen & Oddli, 2019). Hence it is very crucial for the whole family to cope with this disorder to find a solution for it. Studies show that family-based treatments for patients with anorexia nervosa has been the best option especially for adolescents (Nilsen, Hage, Ro,Halvorsen & Oddli, 2019). After many studies and research, it has been found out that mainly there are 4 themes to the FBT (family-based treatments) which are enabling new ways of understanding and relating, enhancing or maintain negative power dynamics, vulnerable transitions, and siblings’ relationships and different ways of involvement. Enabling new ways of understanding and relating was a beneficial treatment as it made new ways of relating and understanding mainly the importance of togetherness (Nilsen, Hage, Ro,Halvorsen & Oddli, 2019). Joined forces really helped when it came to eating disorders when the patients feel that he isn’t alone in this and everyone of his/her family is with them they feel more powerful. This also enhanced the relationship between family members. This family support means a lot to the patient and can help significantly in changing his/her eating habits (Nilsen, Hage, Ro,Halvorsen & Oddli, 2019).

Sibling relationships can enhance this and help the patient in order to be effectively treated. Many patients expressed the importance of including siblings in the treatment process. Also, by making the siblings part of the treatment this also affected the relationship between the patient and his/her siblings in a good way (Nilsen, Hage, Ro,Halvorsen & Oddli, 2019).One stated that her parents were very much involved in the treatment and talked a lot with the professionals while she was left alone, stating that she needed more conversations and that’s where siblings being part of the treatment is very effective.

Another way in helping the patient to be treated from anorexia nervosa is a reduction in meal anxiety. It is associated with better treatment outcomes, and it should have more focus as it improves outcome of the treatment in an efficient way (Smith, Huysse, & Rienecke, 2019). Anxiety is mainly a core symptom when it comes to anorexia nervosa. This anxiety of a meal can creates a fear of eating, which leads ton avoidance of such meals or even not eating at all. The less the anxiety to food the better the outcome of the treatment (Smith, Huysse, & Rienecke, 2019). Hence when a person learns not to feel anxious when it comes to a meal and that the food can be eaten without resulting in huge weight gain (Smith, Huysse, & Rienecke, 2019). This will lead to less avoidance of meals and food. Hence it will be easier to eat meals and get their nutritional value up again. Hence this is a very crucial way the family can help in the treatment of the adolescent from anorexia nervosa.

Sometimes FBT alone doesn’t work, and hospitalization needs to happen. Hence the family will be admitted as well in the treatment process. However, we might have some bad effects when the family is admitted as well. Many patients reported some issues and negative results when they were admitted to the FBT. Hence sometimes FBT alone won’t be enough as some reported feeling worse and in somewhat a “toxic environment”. The patients admitted with their families also found out that they need to struggle with their families as well and this created a bad atmosphere for the patient and didn’t help them in recovering. Some patients conveyed that it would have been much easier for them if their parents weren’t present. They believed that if it was with the doctors only it would have been much better and maybe the treatment might have been faster. This is called Enhancing or maintaining negative power dynamics.

Vulnerable transitions are really important when it comes to the treatment of anorexia nervosa. It might as well be a hazard for many, patients reported how they felt about the transitions during the time of the treatment. Mentioning the fact, that these transitions are of a great importance to the process of treatment. Some of the patients reported it being “scary” for a couple of times it happened, but they clearly understood that it was of a major part of this process. While other so that in a way as a bolt from this treatment. The majority of the patients reported that they didn’t want to come back to the hospital anymore, but they eventually did.

In conclusion, anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that targets mainly adolescents. Females more than men are likely to have this disorder. There are many ways of treatment, some include hospitalization, and some are based on family-based treatment. Family plays an important role and can help in changing their family member eating habits. As discussed, there are more ways for FBT. In my opinion both FBT and hospitalization should be implemented hand by hand to achieve maximum efficiency. As it plays a huge role in the outcome of the treatment. Siblings’ relationships and their support are as well crucial to the patient as well. When the family has some kind of joined forces with the patients this yields a very positive result.


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Anorexia Nervosa in Adolescence. Family-based treatment
A short overview
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ISBN (eBook)
adolescence, anorexia, family-based, nervosa
Quote paper
Wael El Sabeh (Author), 2020, Anorexia Nervosa in Adolescence. Family-based treatment, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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