Effectiveness of intensive cognitive behavioral therapy in adolescents and adults with anorexia nervosa

Int J Eat Disord. 2020 Sep;53(9):1428-1438. doi: 10.1002/eat.23337. Epub 2020 Jul 21.


Objective: This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of an intensive treatment based on enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT-E) in adolescent and adult patients with anorexia nervosa.

Methods: A total of 150 consecutive patients (74 adolescents and 81 adults) were admitted to a 20-week intensive CBT-E program (13 weeks of inpatient followed by 7 weeks of day-hospital treatment). All patients had responded poorly to previous outpatient treatments and were assessed at admission, end of treatment (EOT), and 20- and 60-week follow-ups.

Results: About 70% of eligible patients began the program, and more than 85% completed it. Body mass index (BMI) in adults and BMI-for-age percentile in adolescents improved significantly from baseline to EOT, remained stable until 20-week follow-up, and slightly decreased from 20-week follow-up to 60-week follow-up, while remaining in the lower normal range. Eating disorder psychopathology, general psychopathology, and clinical impairment scores decreased significantly at EOT and showed only a slight increase from EOT to follow-ups. No difference was found between adolescent and adult patients in treatment acceptance, dropout, or any outcome measure.

Discussion: These findings indicate that intensive CBT-E seems to be an effective treatment for severely ill adolescent and adult patients with anorexia nervosa.

Keywords: adolescents; adults; anorexia nervosa; cognitive behavioral therapy; eating disorders; inpatient treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult