In an effort to combat eating disorders among adolescents, the Eating Disorder Research Program (EDRP) at University of the Sciences is offering free treatment for families with an adolescent who struggles with eating and weight concerns. Under the direction of Dr. C. Alix Timko, assistant professor of psychology at USciences, the EDRP seeks to understand the cause and treatment of one of the most commonly known eating disorders, anorexia nervosa.
“At the EDRP we have, in collaboration Duke University Medical Center, created a family-based intervention that combines the best of current, family-based eating disorder components with mindfulness and acceptance,” said Dr. Timko. “Research shows that acceptance-based approaches have been successful in treating other disorders, but has yet to be fully applied to eating disorders. In our current study, a therapist will meet with both the adolescent and parents separately to address the different issues and concerns of each party over a six-month period.”
In addition to being a training site for advanced master’s and doctoral students in clinical psychology, the EDRP undertakes many studies ranging from questionnaires to computer-based tasks to providing treatment for various eating disorders. Its current treatment study, the only study of its kind in Philadelphia, is for aimed at adolescents with anorexia nervosa and their families. Individuals (male or female) between 12-18 years of age must be medically stable for outpatient treatment and show signs of anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate among mental disorders, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
Could your child have an eating disorder? Dr. Timko suggests that parents be alert for these five warning signs:
- Loss of a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a low weight that is inappropriate for an individual’s height and development level. To determine if a particular weight is healthy, one should calculate his or her body mass index (BMI). The Center for Disease Control provides a BMI calculator for children and for adults at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/index.html.
- Being overly concerned with body shape and weight. Individuals with anorexia nervosa frequently make comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss.
- Avoiding certain foods/ avoiding eating all together. This includes everything from denying foods to making excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations where food is involved.
- Spending a large amount of time in the bathroom. There is a possibility that individual may be vomiting or using laxatives.
- Over-exercising. Some who suffer from anorexia nervosa adhere to a strict and excessive exercise regimen—often feeling the need to burn calories despite the weather, illness, fatigue, etc.
The study is funded by the National Institute of Health (therefore completely free to participants). It is being conducted in conjunction with Duke University’s Eating Disorders Center, whose results indicate that adolescents are returning to a healthy weight and demonstrating a reduction in eating disorder symptoms.
For more information on the program, contact the EDRP at email@example.com or 215-596-7183.