Why do adolescents with bulimia nervosa choose not to involve their parents in treatment?
Background: Although the use of family therapy for adolescents with anorexia nervosa is well established, there has been limited research into the efficacy of family therapy in adolescents with bulimia nervosa (BN). No previous research has investigated why individuals with BN do or do not involve their parents in treatment. This is an exploratory study aimed at determining whether there are any differences between these individuals in terms of eating disorder symptomatology, psychopathology, familial risk factors, patients’ perception of parental expressed emotion (EE) and family functioning. Methods: Participants were 85 adolescents with BN or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, recruited to a randomised controlled evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of cognitive-behavioural guided self-care vs. family therapy. Participants were interviewed regarding the history of their eating disorder and completed self-report measures. Results: Patients who did not involve their parents in treatment were significantly older, had more chronic eating disorder symptoms, exhibited more co-morbid and impulsive behaviours and rated their mothers higher in EE. However, they did not have more severe eating disorder symptomatology. Conclusions: These preliminary findings, although in need of replication with a larger sample and limited by the attrition rate in some of the self-report measures, indicate that patients who did not involve their parents in treatment may perceive their mothers as having a more blaming and negative attitude towards the patient’s illness. Public awareness about BN needs to be raised, focusing on reducing the stigma and negative views attached to this illness.