Treatment Study for Anorexia Nervosa

Recruitment for this study is now closed.

Please Help Us Determine Effective Psychological Treatments for Adolescents with Anorexia Nervosa

The University Of Chicago is conducting a five-year NIMH study to evaluate effective outpatient psychological treatments for adolescents with anorexia nervosa. This research study is a joint project with Stanford University.

  • You are needed if you are between 12 and 18, live with at least one parent, and have anorexia nervosa.
  • The study requires that you and your parents be interviewed, fill out questionnaires, and then be assigned to one of two outpatient psychological treatments.

Aims of the Project

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a serious illness that usually onsets in adolescence and is often long lasting. There are many short and long-term medical complications associated with AN, including structural abnormalities of the brain and cardiac dysfunction. The mortality rates associated with this severely disabling condition are higher than for any other psychiatric disorder. Despite the seriousness of AN, there has been very limited research on the possible treatments for this disorder, especially in the adolescent population. There is no proven treatment for adolescent AN. However, there are two models of treatment that have been proposed to be effective for this population: individual-based therapy and family-based therapy. The purpose of the present study is to attempt to identify an outpatient psychological treatment that is effective for adolescents with AN.


Primary Subjects

The primary participants will be adolescents with Anorexia Nervosa. Both parents must also be willing to participate in treatment. Below are the criteria for the individual that must be met to be included in this treatment study.

  1. Age: 12-18
  2. Diagnosis: Current Anorexia Nervosa
  3. Living situation: Currently living with family
  4. Health: Stable enough for outpatient treatment


Parents must be willing to participate.


Once the study has been explained to you and your parents, and all your questions have been answered, you and your parents will be asked if you want to continue participating. If so, you will be interviewed and you will complete questionnaires to confirm that you meet the above inclusion criteria for participation. Your parents will also be interviewed and complete questionnaires.


You stand an equal chance of being randomized (a process similar to flipping a coin) to Family-based Therapy or Individual Therapy. Parents will be required to participate in both methods of treatment, although their degree of participation will vary.

Family Therapy: Families may be helpful in the treatment of their adolescent children.s unhealthy eating habits. In the early part of treatment, parents are assisted in finding their own ways to help their child overcome their unhealthy eating habits. This is done through education about the seriousness of eating disorders, as well as coaching parents about how they may go about taking control of their adolescent.s eating. Once symptoms are under control, parents will hand eating decisions back to the adolescent. General adolescent issues, such as learning to function more on her own, will be discussed toward the end of treatment.

Individual Therapy: This treatment focuses on increasing the self-esteem, self-efficacy and self-worth of the adolescent, addressing the issues underlying the eating disorder. Participants will first learn to identify and define their emotions, and eventually, to tolerate negative (and even positive) emotions rather than numbing themselves with starvation. The participant learns to accept responsibility for food related issues as opposed to giving up authority to others. In addition, a primary goal of this treatment is to help the patient gain independence from his or her family as a developing adolescent.

More Information

If you would like information, please contact Jamie Peisel at 773-834-5677 or .


Daniel le Grange, PhD of the Eating Disorders Clinic in the Department of Psychiatry at The University of Chicago.