Anorexia nervosa and childhood sexual abuse: Treatment outcomes of intensive enhanced cognitive behavioural therapy

Psychiatry Res. 2018 Apr;262:477-481. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.09.027. Epub 2017 Sep 12.


Sexual abuse has been widely studied as a risk factor in anorexia nervosa, but data on its influence on treatment outcomes are scarce. Hence, we compared short- and long-term outcomes of inpatient enhanced cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT-E) in patients with anorexia nervosa who had and had not suffered sexual abuse. Eighty-one patients were recruited, and body mass index (BMI), Eating Disorder Examination, Brief Symptom Inventory, and Work and Social Adjustment Scale scores were recorded before and after treatment, and at 6- and 12-month follow-ups. Twenty patients (24.7%) reported experiencing childhood sexual abuse before anorexia nervosa onset, while 61 (75.3%) reported none. Both groups displayed similar characteristics before treatment, and similarly large increases in BMI, eating-disorder, general psychopathology, and work and social functioning from baseline to 12-month follow-up. Based on these findings, childhood sexual abuse does not appear to compromise outcomes in patients with anorexia nervosa treated via intensive CBT-E.

Keywords: Eating disorder; Follow-up; Inpatient treatment; Social functioning.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Young Adult