University West Sydney LogoNumerous studies have put emphasis on healthy eating. Unfortunately, several people seem to develop problems with body image which stop them from following a healthy eating lifestyle. Because of which they experience various kinds of eating disorders. Till today, various reports have been published on these eating disorders. This piece of news may bring relief to those suffering from some of these disorders.

Most people with bulimia and binge eating disorders are believed to be lingering for many years before they seek help. However, according to a latest research, psychological treatment may perhaps make a big difference. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) seems to be the most effective talk therapy for these disorders.

People with bulimia seem to undergo cycles of disordered eating behavior in which they overeat and then purge, often by self-induced vomiting or taking laxatives. Apparently, binge eating disorder includes short period of overeating, but without purging. Researchers are noted to have linked this disorder to obesity.

Lead researcher, Phillipa Hay, M.D., chair foundation of mental health at the University of West Sydney in Australia, said that, “Cognitive behavioral therapy is really the treatment of choice. It has far and away the best evidence. It hadn’t really been so definitively found in previous reviews.”

It was estimated that eating disorders are most prevalent in women, with bulimia affecting nearly 1 percent of women and binge eating disorders affecting approximately 2 percent to 5 percent. It was observed that bulimia rates appear stable but binge eating disorders are increasingly becoming frequent.

During the investigation, researchers incorporated about 48 studies with approximately 3,054 participants. Additionally, they strengthened previous findings in support of cognitive behavioral therapy. The researchers found that nearly 37 percent of people absolutely stopped binge eating when they were provided CBT which focused on binging. However, approximately 3 percent seemed to have been assigned to a waiting list control group in order to quit binge eating.

It was observed that other therapies were less successful as compared to CBT. CBT was noted to have assisted 22 percent of participants attain abstinence from binging by the end of treatment. Furthermore, they discovered that one approach called interpersonal therapy appears to have achieved comparable results, but took an extensive time to carry out the results.

Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program at Chapel Hill. Bulik, who had no connection with the research, said the key findings are that “bulimia nervosa is treatable; that some treatment is better than no treatment; that CBT is associated with the best outcome for bulimia nervosa.”

Supposedly, the original aim of CBT was to cure depression. A modified type of CBT in researches seems to focus particularly on binge eating disorder symptoms. However, participants also seemed to have experienced considerable improvements in mood. On the other hand, weight did not appear to have changed with treatment.

“Many people have problems with depression secondary to binge eating disorders. They often feel anxious and guilty because of their binging so if the eating disorder improves, the depression improves as well. We did look at the effects of CBT (for binge eating) on depression and it does help depression significantly just in itself,” continues Hay.

Hay further elucidated that, “None of these psychotherapies really affect people’s weight, which is good thing for people with bulimia who are normal weight but for those who are overweight or obese, they will need weight-loss therapies as well.”

It was noted that cognitive behavioral treatment of bulimia or binge eating disorder normally involves 15 to 20 outpatient sessions with a therapist over a five-month period. CBT is known to function by helping patients change the way they think about their behavior.

Bulik further stated that, “CBT rests on the premise that unhealthy thoughts lie at both the roots of bulimia nervosa and in the maintenance of unhealthy eating behaviors. The goals of CBT are first to have the patient become his or her own detective and — via self-monitoring — start to understand their patterns of binge eating and purging and recognize and anticipate the cues (triggers) for their unhealthy behaviors.”

Once these patterns and the thoughts which drive them are recognized, they could possibly be challenged and addressed. Hay gave the example of someone who, after binging, skips lunch and breakfast the next day. Allegedly, this could easily produce another binge because the craving caused by intense hunger is difficult to resist. It was observed that the therapist would assist the patient see that eating healthy meals after a binge would break the cycle, even though fasting may perhaps at first seem like a better solution.

The researchers also compared CBT completed in conjunction with a therapist to self-help with the help of books which teach its techniques and tactics. While guided CBT appears to be more effective, there was not much research on self-help. Other researches have discovered that antidepressants may be able to help in fighting bulimia and binge eating. While this research did not compare medicine to psychotherapy, Hay is of the opinion that clinicians should try CBT first because more people stick with it.

Hay claims that the approach is ‘promising’ and should receive further study. There seems to be more research on bulimia in contrast to binge-eating disorder. Thus for this purpose, more data could assist in clarifying the best approaches to the latter.

The research findings have been published in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library.