Previous research suggests an early response to eating disorder treatment predicts better outcomes, both at the end of treatment and at follow-up appointments. What do we mean by “early response”? The definition varies, but a recent research study exploring the time-sensitivity of eating disorder treatment response defines early response as “a clinically meaningful improvement in behavioral symptoms within the first weeks of treatment.”
That research study comprised a systematic literature review and meta-analysis to further explore the relationship between response time during treatment and eating disorder remission status. The goal was to look at how accurately the end of treatment remission status could be predicted based on early response to treatment for anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED).
The study showed that early response was predictive of remission for the participants with AN and BED. The effect was not observed in participants with BN. Here’s a breakdown of the results:
Binge Eating Disorder
Early response to treatment does not appear to have the same overall predictive utility as with AN and BED.
So it seems that early treatment response is highly relevant, particularly for AN and BED. Given this evidence, clients in treatment should be properly monitored for early response to ensure targets are met within an established timeframe. It may be appropriate to consider a change in approach or shift to a higher level of care if there is a lack of early response. Results also suggest that early treatment interventions should focus on reducing shame and promoting self-compassion.
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