A new study in the United Kingdom shows a new variation on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy may be effective in treating a majority of individuals with eating disorders.
Eating disorders in the UK are classified somewhat differently than they are in the United States. Mainly, they classify eating disorders as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and "atypical" eating disorders, which is the United States' equivalent to Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. "Atypical" eating disorders in the UK are defined as having both features of anorexia and bulimia, such as self-starvation, binge-eating, making oneself throw up purposefully, taking laxatives, and exercising excessively.
The new "enhanced" Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy was developed from the previous form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which was specifically designed for individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa by Professor Christopher Fairburn, who is a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. He also developed the new "enhanced" Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, intended to help even more individuals suffering from eating disorders.
Fairburn and his colleagues conducted a study with 154 individuals suffering from eating disorders. Two types of enhanced Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT-E) were developed, a simple version and a more complex version. The simple version focused on the primary issue of the eating disorder while the more complex version of CBT-E focused on the eating disorder as well as other features that are commonly associated with eating disorders, such as depression, self-esteem, and perfectionism.
Each individual participating in the study received 20 50-minute sessions of simple or complex CBT-E over the span of 20 weeks.
The researchers discovered that participants responded well to both types of CBT-E and that these improvements held over a one-year period, the time in which relapse into an eating disorder is most common. More specifically, of the participants who completed treatment, two-thirds made a full recovery from their eating disorders. Although one-third of participants relapsed into their eating disorders, they maintained significant improvement.
This study seems to indicate that CBT-E is an effective treatment for a majority of individuals who are suffering from eating disorders. Fairburn and his colleagues are also conducting a large study in order to measure the effectiveness of CBT-E on individuals suffering from anorexia, specifically.
Psych Central: Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders