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CBT proposed for eating disorders

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
female therapist consulting female patient

30th November 2017 - A special type of CBT - cognitive behavioural therapy, also called a talking therapy - is being proposed for people with eating disorders under new NHS draft guidance planned for England.

NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) is recommending a range of psychological treatments to improve the care of adults, children, and young people, who have eating disorders, like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

Eating disorders

The charity Beat estimates the number of people in the UK with an eating disorder could be as high as 1.25 million.

A spokesperson for the charity told us by email: "Eating disorders are serious, complex mental illnesses and early intervention is key to recovery. All evidence tells us the sooner someone with an eating disorder gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and sustained recovery."

Tailored therapy

One of the main aims of psychotherapy is to help a patient better understand the issues troubling them and to work out new ways of thinking about, and approaching, situations they find difficult.

The draft quality standard from NICE highlights the most effective therapies for people with eating disorders. It is recommending a range of possible psychological treatments, including:

  • Eating-disorder-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-ED) for adults with anorexia nervosa
  • CBT-ED on a one-to-one basis for children, alongside family sessions
  • Guided self-help programmes for people with binge eating disorders
  • Focused family therapy (FT-BN) for children and young people with bulimia-nervosa

Professor Christopher Fairburn, director of the Centre for Research on Eating Disorders at Oxford who was involved in putting the new standard together says: "This form of specialised CBT can help patients better understand their eating disorder so that they can recognise what causes it to persist and change negative views about themselves and their body.


"We want more people with eating disorders to benefit from this type of tailored therapy so that they can overcome the disorder and be at minimum risk of relapse."

A spokesperson for the charity Beat says: "We welcome the idea of giving eating disorder sufferers access to evidence based treatments. It is equally important that sufferers are given quick access to care and support as early interventions are key to ensure a full recovery.

"Our latest research highlighted that people with eating disorders face a three-and-a-half-year delay between falling ill and starting treatment. And we are calling on the Government to take action to do more to encourage people to seek help as soon as possible."

The NICE quality standard is currently only a draft. It is open for public consultation until 3rd January 2018 and stakeholders and members of the public are invited to comment on the proposed advice.

Reviewed on November 30, 2017

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