The University of Western Australia has announced the launch of a major international study on anorexia nervosa.
Lead investigator Associate Professor Susan Byrne of UWA's School of Psychology said the $700,000 four-year study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council would test the effectiveness of the three new treatments. More than 200 people aged 18 years and over are being recruited and randomly assigned to one of the treatments for 10 months. Treatment is free of charge.
The treatments are: Enhanced Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, developed at Oxford University; Maudsley Anorexia Nervosa Treatment for Adults (MANTRA), developed at London's Maudsley Hospital; and Specialist Support Clinical Management for Anorexia Nervosa, developed at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
"Each treatment focuses on normalising eating behaviours," Professor Byrne said. "Each aims for weight regain and the restoration of normal eating patterns so that the person with anorexia nervosa can become physically and mentally well again. This is very exciting because to date there's no really effective treatment for anorexia nervosa in adults.
"Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, with 15 to 20 per cent of sufferers dying after 15 years. In Australia, 15 per cent of women - 90 per cent of those affected are women - will suffer from some form of eating disorder in their lifetime.
"We don't really know what causes anorexia nervosa. However, we do know that the primary risk factors are being female and dieting or restricting food intake. Associated factors include high levels of perfectionism, low self-esteem, and obsessive traits. Sufferers become anxious, depressed and preoccupied with food. They are sometimes too unwell to go to work and become socially isolated. Their fertility and bone density is affected and they may die of heart failure."
As well as UWA, Flinders University, Sydney University, the University of Western Sydney, the University of Otago, Oxford University and Kings College London are involved in the study which will be carried out at UWA and at WA's Centre for Clinical Interventions, the State's only public eating disorders service for adults, which treats patients aged 16 and over.