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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy And Eating Disorders


Monday, December 15th, 2008 Cognitive Behavioural Therapy And Eating Disorders

In a BBC article covered in (10 10 07), it was revealed that the government were to allocate millions of pounds on “talking treatments” for depression and anxiety in England. According to Alan Johnson the Health Secretary who says, by 2010, £170m a year would be spent - allowing 900,000 more people to be treated using psychological therapies.

It is thought that the plan will indeed pay for itself as those effected will be able to return to work as opposed to claiming benefits. The BBC have written a report specifically in relation to Eating Disorders and ‘talking therapies’. Fundamentally it is thought that this type of treatment will release the obsessive patient away from their feelings.

Moreover it is argued with reference to UK researchers that specially-created form of “cognitive behavioural therapy” might work in four out of five cases. Hopes are very high indeed.

A 154-person American Journal of Psychiatry study, by the University of Oxford, found most achieved “complete and lasting” improvement. At present, the treatment is officially recommended only for bulimia patients. For the purposes of clarity some statistical information is required. Notwithstanding it has been suggested that more than one million UK citizens are directly effected by an eating disorder whether that be Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia.

Hitherto figures suggest Approximately 40% of those with eating disorders have bulimia, 20% have anorexia, and the remainder have “atypical disorders”, which can combine both bulimic and anorexic-type symptoms. Back in the (10 10 07) article, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) argued that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) therapy is as effective as prescribed drugs. More recently Professor Christopher Fairburn, the Welcome Trust funded researcher who led the project, believes his version could help many more people. His study specifically was focused on the issues surrounding bulimia, and “atypical” patients.

The method of approach used, includes counselling sessions which help the person involved to realise the patterns and links between their emotions and behaviour, and work out ways to change what they are doing. More significantly, Professor Fairburn developed two versions specifically for people with eating disorders, one which focused completely on the eating problems, and another, which took a wider view of not only the eating disorder, but also problems with self-esteem which might be contributing to it.

Furthermore, the two sets of treatments included a 50-minute outpatient sessions repeated once a week for 20 weeks. Importantly it is relevant to point out that a detailed study is only viable if it is backed up with the course of time, for this study the patients were monitored for twelve months. The reason being is that relapse is more likely within this set period.

With that in mind the outcomes were positive. Two-thirds made a “complete and lasting” response, with many of the other third showing substantial improvement. A study now is being carried out in relation to anorexia, feed back is very optimistic.

Another great advantage towards CBT is the fact that there is no hospitalisation. Thus beds can remain free for those with other disorders. This is borne out by Professor Fairburn who states “Now, for the first time, we have a single treatment which can be effective at treating the majority of cases, without the need for patients to be admitted into hospital.

“It is increasingly being used across the NHS, and has the potential to improve the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people living with eating disorders.”

CBT has been central in helping a 39 year old woman Susan Muir who has suffered from a long-term eating disorder. Muir from Chesterfield, used diet and exercise to shed 13 stone, but found that once this had happened, she found herself binge-eating then obsessively exercising. “The CBT helped me realise what I was doing, and turned those irrational thoughts into rational ones.

What is exciting to read is that Susan Ringwood, the chief executive of Beat, the eating disorders campaign group, said: “This research shows that people can benefit from psychological therapy even at a very low weight. In equal measure and of equal importance is according to Dr Alan Cohen, mental health spokesperson for the Royal College of GP’s, welcomed the research and says “Access to this service, and appropriate training for therapists to deliver this new form of treatment, is very important.”

“There has been so little research into eating disorders and anorexia in particular, and this has really added to our knowledge in a challenging field.”

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