UCLA Campus    |   UCLA Health    |   School of Medicine Translate:
UCLA Health It Begins With U

Clinical Updates


Clinical Updates


UCLA Offers Eating Disorders Program for Adults


Adult Eating DisordersAdults who struggle with eating disorders require different treatment foci than adolescents. UCLA’s Eating Disorders Program has established an adult treatment program, entirely separate from our adolescent program, to meet those needs and to address the psychological effects of eating disorders that persist into adulthood. Eating disorders commonly treated include anorexia nervosa (compulsive self-starvation and intense fear of weight gain, even when weight is dangerously low) and bulimia nervosa (repetitive binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors such as vomiting or laxative abuse).

Issues facing adults

Eating disorders typically develop in adolescence, so patients in the adult treatment program are often wrestling with long-entrenched behaviors. Most are facing many years of profound social isolation and feelings of inadequacy. Their chronic eating disorders have taken physical tolls and many have developed debilitating medical complications such as bone disease from malnourishment, dental enamel erosion from induced vomiting, or gastrointestinal or cardiac issues.

The social context of the illnesses also differs for adults. Unlike adolescents, adult patients are struggling to meet the demands of work, college or living independently for the first time. Many are contending with the adverse effects of their eating disorders on their spouses or children.

Program goals

The goals of the adult program include normalizing patients’ eating behaviors and physical health, addressing psychosocial issues and helping patients develop and strengthen adaptive coping tools. Because adults are admitted to the program on a voluntary basis – unlike adolescents, who are placed by their parents – patients must demonstrate a commitment to change for treatment to be successful. Personal responsibility and a motivation to change long-established patterns of behavior are at the center of the adult treatment program. In individual, group and family or couples therapy, patients learn how to manage their fears and anxieties. The treatment team teaches adult patients new coping and relapse-prevention strategies. Group meetings address such issues as sexuality, maintaining healthy boundaries in interpersonal relationships, relaxation and meditation techniques and the buying and preparation of food. Medication management, if indicated, is included in all stages of treatment.

Far-ranging expertise

UCLA’s Eating Disorders Program enjoys a top national reputation because of the breadth and depth of the multidisciplinary team’s training and clinical expertise. Most of the adult program’s therapists are doctoral-level psychologists and all have extensive backgrounds in individual, group and family therapy. The program’s support for continuity of care also sets it apart. Patients are followed by the same treatment team as they progress from the inpatient level of care through our day treatment program, which provides care six days a week from morning through dinnertime. An adult outpatient group program meets twice a week and is open to patients who have gone through our inpatient and day programs as well as to patients referred directly to the group from the community.

Research driven

The Eating Disorders Program has been conducting research for more than 30 years to identify emotional, psychological and genetic factors that increase the risk of developing anorexia and bulimia. A promising new area of research is focusing on the neurobiology of eating disorders. Researchers are using neuroimaging in the hope of identifying circuits in the brain that may play a role in symptom susceptibility.

The Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA has eight beds dedicated to the adult eating disorders inpatient treatment program, about the same number that are devoted to its adolescent eating disorders inpatient program. Additional patients can be accommodated in adjacent areas of the hospital.

Adults face different issues

The adult treatment program addresses the unique needs of adults struggling with eating disorders. “Adult patients with eating disorders need support and encouragement to reclaim aspects of their lives that have been overshadowed by their illness,” says Michael Strober, Ph.D., director of the UCLA Eating Disorders Program. “They are steeped in the conviction that there is little they can do to acquire new skills and new competencies.”

“The treatment has to adapt to the complications of adult life,” explains Dr. Strober. “Significant others must be included in the treatment. We have to address the adverse effects of chronic and debilitating symptoms on interpersonal relationships.”

“The goal of the treatment program is to return the patient to maximum functioning emotionally, socially and psycho-logically,” Dr. Strober says.

Program Faculty

Michael Strober, Ph.D.
Director, UCLA Eating Disorders Program
Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA
Franklin Mint Professor of Eating Disorders
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Cynthia Pikus, Ph.D.
Associate Director UCLA Eating Disorders Program
Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA

Contact Information

(310) 267-7364
Adult inpatient services

(310) 206-3954
Adult outpatient group program

(310) 267-9140
Adolescent inpatient services


Add a comment

Please note that we are unable to respond to medical questions through the comments feature below. For information about health care, or if you need help in choosing a UCLA physician, please contact UCLA Physician Referral Service (PRS) at 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631) and ask to speak with a referral nurse. Thank you!

comments powered by Disqus