I found this article at the University of Iowa Hospital website. Naturally, the topic sparked my interest, especially the way they had it linked with a picture of someone stuffing her face with food. Tactful, wouldn’t you say?

UI Health Care News

Week of November 6, 2000
Involuntary treatment of eating disorders can help patients, UI study shows

You might question the good of trying to help a person who doesn't want help for a problem. However, in the case of eating disorders, involuntary treatment seems to be as effective in the short-run as voluntary treatment is.

The observation was made by University of Iowa Health Care researchers in one of the largest investigations to date on the subject and the first study of its kind conducted at the UI. The findings will appear in the Nov. 1 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The UI researchers reviewed the records of 397 patients (351 females and 46 males) who had been admitted to the UI Eating Disorders Program over a seven-year period for anorexia, bulimia or eating disorders not otherwise specified. Sixty-six, or 16.6 percent, of the patients received their treatment after involuntary legal commitment. Individuals in this category have refused hospitalization despite the life-threatening severity of their illness but can legally be required to enter a treatment program.

"We found that once admitted, involuntary patients restored weight and were able to return home," said Tureka Watson, UI researcher in psychiatry and the study's designer and author. "Many of them also said they understood they were sick and needed treatment."

Arnold Andersen, M.D., UI professor of psychiatry and director of the UI Eating Disorders Program, was the study's primary investigator. Wayne Bowers, Ph.D., UI associate professor (clinical) of psychiatry also was on the research team.

Watson added that while involuntary treatment can be controversial, no detained patient took any legal action or registered any type of complaint. Numerous safeguards are also in place within the state to protect the rights of people committed involuntarily for medical treatment.

The involuntary patients, which included 60 females and 6 males, needed to be hospitalized on average for 58 days, about 17 more days than the voluntary patients, due to their lower weights on admission. However, both patient groups gained weight at about the same rate on a weekly basis and were otherwise similar in age, gender ratio and marital status as well as history of substance abuse and depression

The researchers found that the involuntary group of patients had more previous hospitalizations, an indication of their resistance to treatment. They also scored slightly lower on certain tests that measure how well a person understands what is going on around them and how their actions affect their lives. Watson said the difference could be attributed to the lower body weight of those patients.

"They are so starved, their bodies don't function at full capacity," she said. "Whatever energy the body does get goes to maintaining essential functions such as their heart rate and body temperature. We know it becomes more difficult for them to concentrate, for example."

One drawback to the study, Watson noted, is that the researchers do not know how the patients do in the long-term…..

Am I the only one who sees through this so called “study”? Nowhere does it mention that after committing a patient to the hospital, by law the doctors are allowed to force feed him or her without delay. This is why the patient is committed in the first place, and explains the weight gain reported in the article.

Also, when one is committed to a hospital of any sort, one will do absolutely anything to get out. If this means gaining weight, so be it. Once the weight is gained, it can be lost again after discharge from the hospital.

The absurdity of this article is astounding; why anyone would feel the necessity to publish something as vague and so stuffed full of borderline false information escapes my comprehension.

But of course, I can't ignore the other side of the argument; without involuntary treatment, many eating disorder victims would live greatly shortened lives. In rare cases, the patient is awakened to her senses by involuntary treatment, and therefore cured for life. But so far, I know only one person who can say this.

In general, the involuntary treatment encourages the victim's eating disorder behaviors to become more desperate and out of control. By being denied what they want most, the victims become even more obsessed with their goal to be thin. This, if anything, ruins the chance for long-term recovery.

Bascially, there is no way to force treatment upon someone with an eating disorder. S/He has to want to get better, or everyone involved is going to end up hurt and miserable.

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