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Starved for Assistance: Coercion finds a place in the treatment of two eating disorders

Many people with serious eating disorders seek mental-health care only after they are pressured into it by concerned clinicians, family, friends, and employers. Although these cases make psychiatrists uncomfortable, a new study suggests that coercion plays a valuable role in jump-starting participation in the treatment of eating disorders.

A team of psychiatrists studied people with eating disorders who had denied a need for treatment when they were admitted to a hospital clinic. Nearly half changed their minds and acknowledged the necessity of treatment within 2 weeks of being hospitalized, reports Angela S. Guarda of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

The predominantly female patients included many with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. In the former disorder, a person typically loses weight through starvation and exercise. People with bulimia alternate food-eating binges with induced vomiting.

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