The package, initially developed as a CD-ROM cognitive-behavioural self-help tool for the treatment of the eating disorder bulimia nervosa (BN), is set to revolutionise therapy. Bulimia nervosa is a common and disabling condition with significant personal, social and relationship costs.
University of Glasgow psychiatrist Dr Chris Williams and colleagues from the Institute of Psychiatry, London have now been awarded 191,000 from the Medical Research Council to launch an on-line version of the innovation, which is to be delivered to adolescents and young adults (aged 13 to 20) affected by bulimia nervosa.
Initial trials of the first stand-alone computerised treatment for eating disorder patients have been very successful and all patients involved in the pilot made significant improvements. The CD-ROM proved to be particularly effective in reducing vomiting and laxative abuse. This is important, as research has revealed that an early reduction in vomiting is a good predictor of positive longer-term outcomes in the treatment of bulimia.
Many patients with bulimia nervosa find it hard to access evidence based treatment such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Although it is one of the preferred treatments for emotional and behavioural problems, CBT is labour intensive, and often not readily available.
Eating disorders are an increasing problem is Scotland, with about 10% of young women affected by such conditions. Given the rise in the number of sufferers and the under-provision of eating disorder services, a major challenge is to make treatment more accessible. Now, computer-based packages such as this are helping to bridge the treatment gap.