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New psychotherapy treatment for eating disorders

15 December 2008

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A new form of psychotherapy might help eight out of 10 adults suffering from eating disorders, according to an Oxford University research project.

The seven-year project was based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for bulimia developed by Professor Christopher Fairburn.

The latest version – CBT-E – has two elements, the first focused on the eating disorder itself, while the second tackles related issues such as low self-esteem and perfectionism.

For example, patients would be equipped with new coping mechanisms so they can stop checking themselves in mirrors or measuring and weighing themselves.

The new enhanced version is suitable for people with bulimia, who account for around 15% of eating disorder sufferers, and those with “atypical” eating disorders, who account for around 60%.

Eating disorders affect at least one in 20 women between the ages of 18 and 30. They may show traits of both anorexia and bulimia, including vomiting, bingeing, exercising too much, using laxatives or starving themselves.

Anorexia sufferers, who account for 10% of all cases, are being examined in a separate study using the therapy.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Cognitive behavioural therapy