Time to restore body weight in adults and adolescents receiving cognitive behaviour therapy for anorexia nervosa

Simona Calugi1*Riccardo Dalle Grave1Massimiliano Sartirana1 and Christopher G Fairburn

Corresponding author: Simona Calugi si.calugi@gmail.com

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Author Affiliations

1Department of Eating and Weight Disorder, Villa Garda Hospital, Via Montebaldo, 89, Garda, I-37016, VR, Italy

2Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX, UK

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The aim of the present study was to provide benchmark data on the duration of treatment required to restore body weight (to BMI ≥18.5 or a corresponding BMI centile) in adolescents and adults with anorexia nervosa treated with outpatient cognitive behaviour therapy.


Ninety-five participants (46 adolescents and 49 adults) were recruited from consecutive referrals to a specialist eating disorder clinic. Each was offered 40 sessions of enhanced cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT-E) over 40 weeks, the conventional length of this treatment.


Twenty-nine (63.1%) of the adolescents and 32 (65.3%) of the adults completed all 40 sessions of treatment (P = 0.818). Significantly more adolescents reached the goal BMI than adults (65.3% vs. 36.5%; P = 0.003). The mean time required by the adolescents to restore body weight was about 15 weeks less than that for the adults (14.8 (SE = 1.7) weeks vs. 28.3 (SE = 2.0) weeks, log-rank = 21.5, P < 0.001).


The findings indicate that adolescent patients receiving CBT-E are able to regain weight more successfully than adults and at a faster rate. If these findings are replicated and extend to eating disorder psychopathology, then their treatment could be shorter than that of adults.


Anorexia nervosa; Treatment; Cognitive behaviour therapy; Eating disorder; Outcome