Background: In bulimia nervosa, more intense treatments are recommended if outpatient treatment fails. This is the first randomized controlled trial comparing the options of inpatient versus day clinic treatment. Method: Patients with severe bulimia nervosa were randomly assigned to inpatient or day clinic treatment of similar length and intensity. Specific and general psychopathology was assessed at the end of treatment and a 3-month follow-up. Results: Fifty-five patients were randomized; 22 day clinic patients and 21 inpatients started the program. At the end of treatment, a significant reduction of general and specific pathology was found in both settings. Following discharge, there was more deterioration in bulimic symptoms after inpatient treatment, but overall, results were comparable. Conclusions: Inpatient and day clinic programs are effective treatments for severely disturbed bulimic patients with similar results at the 3-month follow-up. Further follow-up will show if a higher instability of results after inpatient treatment is of importance in the long term.
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