Skip to main content
  • Poster presentation
  • Open access
  • Published:

A systematic review of treatment attrition in anorexia nervosa


Understanding of reasons for attrition in anorexia nervosa therapy is incomplete.


This systematic review was of trials that reported factors associated with attrition, and aimed to compare and contrast findings between treatment settings.


Data were extracted from published reports sourced from searches (dates to 2/2013) of SCOPUS, PubMED, PsycINFO, included French and English language papers, and search terms: 'anorexia nervosa' and 'attrition /drop-out/premature termination of treatment/outcome'.


421 papers were identified, 34 met inclusion criteria, 4 were excluded as they were reviews, and 3 investigated outcome not attrition. Two papers of the 27 included were qualitative studies. Factors consistently associated with attrition in any treatment setting were the type of anorexia nervosa, where the purging type was associated with higher attrition rate than the restrictive type, and poor motivation to change. Less consistent findings were reported in regards to co-morbidity and personality features. The majority of trials were of adults or older adolescents, and over 70% were of inpatient samples.


More studies of attrition in younger people and outpatient settings, and more consistent and standardised assessment of co-morbidity and personality in anorexia nervosa research is needed. Expanding motivational enhancement strategies in therapy may reduce attrition.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ghafda Abdelbaky.

Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Abdelbaky, G., Hay, P. & Touyz, S. A systematic review of treatment attrition in anorexia nervosa. J Eat Disord 1 (Suppl 1), P1 (2013).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: