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Evaluation: Drug Treatment for Anorexia


A level Psychology (Clinical Psychology) Mind Map on Evaluation: Drug Treatment for Anorexia, created by Katie Greensted on 06/04/2019.
Katie Greensted
Mind Map by Katie Greensted, updated more than 1 year ago
Katie Greensted
Created by Katie Greensted about 3 years ago

Resource summary

Evaluation: Drug Treatment for Anorexia
  1. Antidepressants
    1. Antidepressants are used to treat comorbid symptoms of anorexia, such as depression. This is done because they reduce the reuptake of serotonin and/or noradrenaline at the synapse.
      1. As they leave more serotonin at the synapse to bind with receptors, it reduces depression. However, it also increases the individual's appetite as serotonin is linked to appetite levels.
        1. These drugs can have a side effect of weight gain because of the increased appetite. Therefore, they are not suitable for everyone as it could potentially trigger more issues if an individual starts to gain weight. Because of this, antidepressants are usually only given to those who are already recovering and gaining weight on their own. Furthermore, drug treatment is used cautiously for under 18s, which may be an issue as a lot of people with anorexia are teenagers and under 18.
        2. Ferguson compared 24 patients taking antidepressants to 16 patients taking no drugs. Results showed that there was no significant difference on their clinical symptoms or reports of anxiety. This suggests that antidepressants may not be all that effective in treating anorexia.
          1. However, other studies done by individuals such as Kaye and Crisp found that different antidepressants were effective at producing significant weight gain in patients as well as lower relapse rates and a reduction in other symptoms.
        3. Antipsychotics
          1. Antipsychotics block post synaptic dopamine receptors without activating them. This reduces the overall activity of the dopamine system. This is useful as dopamine levels are thought to be high in anorexia patients.
            1. They are thought to help counter the distorted cognitions and views that individuals with anorexia experience in terms of their body weight (similar to delusions in schizophrenia). They also counter the reduced appetite.
              1. Powers found that the use of antipsychotics to treat anorexia patients was inconsistent - 10 individuals gained weight, 4 individuals failed to complete the study, and 4 lost weight. This suggests that they may not be the most effective way of treating anorexia.
                1. However, Court found psychological and physical improvements in 33 patients with few side effects when using antipsychotics, and Trunke found there were 'promising' results when antipsychotics were used for more than 4 months by 5 patients. These studies refute Powers' study and suggests that antipsychotics are effective in treating anorexia.
                  1. However, small sample sizes are often used in these studies into drugs, as shown in Trunke's study, which makes the results hard to generalise - therefore we cannot conclusively say whether drugs are largely effective treatments for anorexia.
              2. Drug treatments only deal with symptoms and do not treat the underlying cause of the problem. The lack of understanding surrounding what causes anorexia makes this issue a hard one to fix. However, NICE guidelines do not recommend that this treatment is the first option and therefore drug treatment would likely be used in conjunction with other therapies that may explore direct causes in that individual's life.
                1. Drug treatment is often cheaper than other forms of therapy, and keeps people out of hospitals, freeing up resources and staff for other issues. However, some may argue that this turns a blind eye to the problem, and may make people feel forced into medication when they believe that hospitalisation would be better for them treatment wise.
                  1. As medication is self administered, there is no way to ensure that the individual is taking the drugs. This may become a particular issue if they gain weight as a side effect as this may be hard for an individual dealing with anorexia to cope with. This could impact the effectiveness of the treatment. However, this also may give the individual a sense of control, which could be beneficial as anorexia often makes the individual feel as though they have a lack of control and this is what feeds the disorder.
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