Holistically addressing motivation and maladaptive traits in anorexia nervosa: Impact on prognosis and treatment outcomes

Athena Milios


Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a serious psychiatric disorder, characterized by restriction of energy intake, low body weight, intense fear of weight gain, and a disturbance in body weight self-perception. Severe and Enduring AN (SE-AN) is a long-lasting (typically 5-7 or more years and marked by several unsuccessful treatment attempts) form of AN. Traditional treatments, centering on weight restoration and core eating pathology, may be part of the reason rates of treatment dropout are high and long-term outcomes are poor, particularly in SE-AN. For SE-AN patients, who have a past marked by failed traditional treatment attempts, multidimensional treatments, addressing motivation to change and maladaptive traits, may improve a range of patient outcomes outside of eating-related symptoms, such as quality of life and interpersonal functioning.The objective of this narrative review is to briefly examine motivation-related factors (e.g., hope and readiness to change), experiential avoidance, perfectionism, and obsessive-compulsiveness, and the impact of treatment approaches incorporating these individual characteristics on various patient outcomes. In conclusion, a holistic, multidimensional, person-centred recovery approach that accounts for (a) illness severity/ chronicity, (b) individual traits, and (c) motivational factors (with a secondary focus on weight gain/eating pathology), could improve quality of life outcomes, particularly in SE-AN. Additionally, integrating patient perspectives, insights, and values into developing/testing novel person-centred interventions is paramount in order to holistically address the underlying biopsychosocial causes and perpetuating factors of AN, and to better understand the trajectory of chronicity.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15273/dmj.Vol46No1.9833


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