Non-judgmental intervention may help binge eaters overcome disorders

A brief non-judgmental interview and feedback session designed to enhance people's motivation to change their behavior added to a self-help program appears to be effective in treating some people with two common types of eating disorders bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

The finding comes from an as yet unpublished University of Washington doctoral dissertation and also suggests that the session, which uses a technique called motivational interviewing, may be a cost effective way of providing assistance to a population that is particularly resistant to treatment.

People with eating disorders are extremely difficult to treat and are "often ambivalent about seeking treatment," said UW psychology doctoral student Erin Dunn. "Most people with eating disorders don't seek treatment on their own. They are indecisive about change and generally seek help when prompted through family, friends or a physician."

Failure rates for treating eating disorders are high. Depending on the type of therapy used, only 30 to 50 percent of those treated for an eating disorder get better, and the percentages are lower for patients who completely cease the behaviors associated with their condition. In addition, the costs for treating an eating disorder are expensive, usually involving individualized and intensive therapy. Patient dropout rates also are high.

Dunn's research showed that 24 percent of people who received a motivational interview as part of a self-help program were abstinent from binge eating at the end of four months compared to nine percent who only received the self help program. People who received the interview cut the incidence of binge eating by 38 percent compared with those in the self-help group who reduced their frequency of binge eating by 25 percent.

More people who went through an interview were abstinent from purging than those who did not receive one, but the difference was not statistically significant. This was like

Contact: Joel Schwarz
University of Washington

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