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"I'm truly free from my eating disorder": Emerging adults' experiences of FREED, an early intervention service model and care pathway for eating disorders

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Rachel Potterton, Amelia Austin, Michaela Flynn, Karina Allen, Vanessa Lawrence, Victoria Mountford, Danielle Glennon, Nina Grant, Amy Brown, Mary Franklin-Smith, Monique Schelhase, William Rhys Jones, Gabrielle Brady, Nicole Nunes, Frances Connan, Kate Mahony, Lucy Serpell, Ulrike Schmidt

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
PublishedDec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The FREED-Up study was supported by a scaling-up grant from the Health Foundation. RP is funded by a PhD Studentship from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) for Mental Health, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) and Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London (KCL). AA is funded by a KCL International Postgraduate Research Scholarship. KA receives support from the NHS Innovation Accelerator programme. VL receives salary support from KCL. US receives salary support from the NIHR BRC for Mental Health, SLaM and KCL. US is supported by an NIHR Senior Investigator Award. This paper represents independent research funded by the NIHR BRC, SLaM and KCL. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care. The funders had no role in study design, data collection or analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s).

King's Authors


Background: Eating disorders (EDs) typically start during adolescence or emerging adulthood, periods of intense biopsychosocial development. FREED (First Episode Rapid Early Intervention for EDs) is a service model and care pathway providing rapid access to developmentally-informed care for emerging adults with EDs. FREED is associated with reduced duration of untreated eating disorder and improved clinical outcomes, but patients’ experiences of treatment have yet to be assessed. Objective: This study aimed to assess emerging adults’ experiences of receiving treatment through FREED. Method: This study triangulated qualitative data on participants’ experiences of FREED treatment from questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Participants were 106 emerging adults (aged 16–25; illness duration < 3 yrs) (questionnaire only = 92; interview only = 6; both = 8). Data were analysed thematically. Results: Most participants reported psychological and behavioural changes over the course of treatment (e.g. reduction in symptoms; increased acceptance and understanding of difficulties). Participants identified five beneficial characteristics of FREED treatment: i) rapid access to treatment; ii) knowledgeable and concerned clinicians; iii) focusing on life beyond the eating disorder; iv) building a support network; v) becoming your own therapist. Conclusion: This study provides further supports for the implementation of early intervention and developmentally-informed care for EDs. Future service model development should include efforts to increase early help-seeking.

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