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Adolescents' perspectives on a novel digital treatment targeting eating disorders: a qualitative study.

BMC Psychiatry 2024 June 6
BACKGROUND: Eating disorders in adolescence are associated with high psychological distress, impaired function and high comorbidity. Despite the severity, eating disorders remain highly underdiagnosed and untreated. Digital technology provides promising opportunities for treatment, however studies focusing on digital treatments for adolescents with eating disorders are lacking. The main aim of this study was to explore the perspectives of adolescents with lived experience of eating disorders on factors they deemed to be relevant in the development of a novel digital treatment.

METHODS: A qualitative intervention development study using semi-structured individual interviews. Data collection, coding and analysis were conducted using the principles of reflexive thematic analysis. Participants were adolescents aged 16-19 years, with a self-reported diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder, currently in the final phase or completed psychological treatment for an eating disorder within the last five years.

RESULTS: A total of 16 adolescents participated in the study, all females. Mean age was 17 ½ years (SD = 1.01). An in-depth understanding of the adolescents' perspectives was developed into three themes: Facilitating self-awareness and readiness to change; Strengthening interpersonal relationships and decreasing social isolation; Ensuring feeling seen and motivating regular use.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides a unique insight into the perspectives of adolescents with lived experience of eating disorders. The uptake and engagement can be optimized in a novel digital treatment for eating disorders by taking the adolescents perspectives into consideration.

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