Treatment Effective for Binge Eating Disorder

A new study shows a shorter treatment program is just as effective as a more intense program for treating binge eating disorder.

Binge eating disorder affects approximately 2 percent of the general population. It is characterized by frequent and persistent episodes of overeating where the patient loses the ability to control how much food he or she eats. These binging episodes are usually accompanied by feelings of loss of control, distress and guilt.

The standard therapy for binge eating disorder has been cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy focuses on changing unwanted behaviors and the thoughts associated with them. As part of the therapy, the patient does a considerable amount of homework, including writing assignments.

Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego conducted a study to determine if an easier form of therapy would be as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy for patients with this disorder. Group interpersonal psychotherapy is a brief, structured psychotherapy program that explores social and interpersonal problems.

The study involved 162 patients with binge eating disorder. Half of the patients received cognitive behavioral therapy and the other half received interpersonal psychotherapy. Both therapy sessions were 20 weeks long. Patients were followed after the treatment ended, and at 4-month intervals for the next 12 months.

Researchers found the recovery rates were similar in both of the groups. At the one-year follow up, recovery was 59 percent in the cognitive behavioral therapy group and 62 percent in the second group. Authors of the study say this reduction in binge eating is among the highest reported in treatment research.

Researchers conclude interpersonal psychotherapy is a viable alternative treatment for patients with binge eating disorder.

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