Compulsory treatment in anorexia nervosa: a review

Int J Eat Disord. 2014 Dec;47(8):845-52. doi: 10.1002/eat.22330. Epub 2014 Jul 3.


Objective: Compulsory in-patient refeeding of patients with severe anorexia nervosa (AN) has caused considerable controversy. The effects of such treatment on longer-term outcome are not well known. The objective of this article is to review the evidence on the outcome of compulsory treatment for AN.

Method: Three large databases were searched for studies regarding compulsory treatment in AN.

Results: Detained patients have more severe symptoms and comorbidity and a longer duration of inpatient stay. In the short term compulsory refeeding in AN appears to be beneficial, but the longer term effects remain uncertain. Clinicians report no worsening of the therapeutic relationship after compulsory treatment.

Discussion: In severe cases of AN where the patient refuses life-saving treatment compulsory treatment needs to be considered. Future research should focus on the longer term effects of compulsory treatment and also on questions related to mental capacity in AN.

Keywords: anorexia nervosa; compulsory treatment; mental capacity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy*
  • Enteral Nutrition* / ethics
  • Enteral Nutrition* / psychology
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Mental Competency
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Treatment Outcome