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Adult Anorexia: New Programs and New Solutions

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Many centers for eating disorders that once placed their emphasis on the adolescent female patient are now developing programs specifically for adult women. The University of California has several in-patient programs for adults.

According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, “Renfrew [Center] created separate therapy sessions for women over 35 after they went from constituting 10 percent of in-patients in 2001 to 17 percent two years later.”

The reason for the change makes sense to any adult woman as the Tribune states, “Therapists recognized that in mixed-age groups, the older women remained silent, tried to 'mother' the younger women or said midlife issues were not being addressed.”

And there are innovative programs being worked on as I write. Amy Novotney, of Monitor, a publication of the American Psychological Association, reports on just a few in the April 2009 edition.

Novotney describes a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill program headed by psychologist Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D. She writes, “Bulik in collaboration with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is conducting a novel clinical trial to compare the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of an online cognitive behavioral therapy augmented with therapist-moderated, weekly online chat session -- Bulik hopes the online program proves effective so it could help those in rural areas who suffer from the [eating] disorder.”

UNC also has plans, Novotney writes, “… to test a couples-based anorexia treatment ... Twenty-four couples are taking part in the year-long clinical trial comparing the UCAN—Uniting Couples in the treatment of Anorexia Nervosa intervention to traditional family supportive therapy.”

According to Novotney, author and psychologist Dr. Margo Maine “…is also working with older adult women with eating disorders. Most of these women feel shame about their disorder, she says, thinking that they should have outgrown such 'teenage' problems. Through individual therapy, Maine helps validate their experiences as women by discussing the many cultural and societal pressures women face in terms of perfectionism and weight and shape."

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