APA Releases Updated Eating Disorder Guidelines

Kelli Whitlock Burton

March 03, 2023

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has released updated practice guidelines for the management of eating disorders, the first update in 16 years.

The updated guidelines focus primarily on anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge-eating disorder (BED) and include recommendations for screening and treatment.

"Eating disorders often are unrecognized and untreated," Catherine Crone, MD, chair of the guideline writing group, said in a statement from APA. "This guideline and supplementary resources are intended to serve as a practical tool for clinicians, to help with screening, diagnosis, and providing evidence-based treatment for eating disorders."

Approximately one in five children worldwide are at risk for developing an eating disorder and US medical admissions for adolescents with restrictive eating disorders more than doubled during the pandemic.

The economic cost of eating disorders in the United States from 2018 to 2019 was an estimated $64.7 billion, the report notes, with an additional $326.5 billion attributable to reductions in well-being associated with eating disorders.

The executive summary of the updated guidelines was published online February 1 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

The practice guideline, which was approved at the 2021 APA annual meeting, features 16 recommendations for clinicians, including screening patients for eating disorders as part of an initial psychiatric evaluation and conducting comprehensive patient evaluations that incorporate laboratory tests and electrocardiograms.

Recommendations also include setting individualized weight goals for patients with anorexia and incorporating family-based therapy as part of a treatment plan for adolescents with anorexia or bulimia.

"This practice guideline aims to help clinicians improve care for their patients by reviewing current evidence and providing evidence-based statements that are intended to enhance knowledge, increase assessment, and optimize treatment of eating disorders," the authors write.

A range of other resources were released with the new guidelines to provide clinicians with support to implement the recommendations, including a pocket guide for clinicians, continuing medical education activities, and slides. The association is also launching a pocket guide for patients and families and an interactive toolkit with a screening assessment calculator.

The APA guidelines follow the 2021 release by the American Academy of Pediatrics on diagnosing and managing eating disorders in children and adolescents.

Am J Psychiatry. Published online February 1, 2023. Abstract.

The American Psychiatric Association Practice Guideline For The Treatment Of Patients With Eating Disorders, Fourth Edition.

The development of the guidelines was supported by a grant from the Council of Medical Specialty Societies.

Kelli Whitlock Burton is a reporter for Medscape Medical News covering psychiatry and neurology.

For more Medscape Psychiatry news, join us on Twitter and Facebook.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.