Meta-analysis on the efficacy of psychological treatments for anorexia nervosa

Elske van den Berg*, Laura Houtzager, Jasmijn de Vos, Inge Daemen, Georgia Katsaragaki, Eirini Karyotaki, Pim Cuijpers, Jack Dekker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

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Objective: This meta-analysis examines the efficacy of recently developed psychological treatments for anorexia nervosa, compared with control condition. Outcome criteria are weight gain, eating disorder pathology, and quality of life. Method: Twelve thousand nine hundred ninety-seven abstracts, published between 1980 and 2017, were retrieved. End-of-treatment data from 1,279 participants, from 15 of 17 eligible studies, were used to calculate pooled-effect sizes (Hedges' g) for outcome using random-effects model. Subgroup analyses were used to explore the influence of various patient and study characteristics. Results: No significant differences between psychological treatment and controls were found on weight gain, g = 0.07, 95% CI [−0.09, 0.23], eating disorder pathology, g = 0.06, 95% CI [−0.10, 0.21], and quality of life, g = −0.11, 95% CI [−0.36, 0.15]. Studies including only patients over 18 years of age were more effective on weight gain than studies including adolescents as well. High-quality studies and studies with reported therapist training had larger effects on weight gain and quality of life compared with low-quality studies and studies without reported training. Conclusions: Despite progress in the development of specialized treatments, the efficacy of psychological treatment over an active control condition could not be established. Outcomes, however, are obscured by low-quality and heterogeneous studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-351
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Eating Disorders Review
Issue number4
Early online date23 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • anorexia nervosa
  • control condition
  • efficacy
  • meta-analysis
  • psychological treatment


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