Can CBT Help With Eating Disorders?

CBT for eating disorders

An eating disorder is not simply being fussy, following a diet trend, or any of the other relatively common quirks and difficulties people experience with their eating habits from time to time. People seek help with eating disorders because of the debilitating effect they have on their health and well-being. One of the most common reasons for a request for support via CBT eating disorders can be managed in a variety of ways, but we know that CBT is a particularly effective treatment for many people. So much so that NICE recommends treatment with CBT for anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia.

Why do people develop eating disorders?

There are two common misconceptions. The first is that there is a single cause or trigger for an eating disorder whereas, in the vast majority of people, this simply isn’t true. A second myth is that ‘the media’ is to blame for increasing numbers of eating disorder diagnoses. That does not explain why only a percentage of the population are affected sufficiently to go on to develop an eating disorder. Poor self-image, low self-esteem, and lack of control in life are all risk factors which can trigger an eating disorder.

What CBT programmes are recommended?

The number and frequency of sessions of CBT recommended by NICE depend upon the particular disorder. Sessions will encourage the patient to understand the risks associated with the eating disorder they are experiencing and encourage them to have more health-maintaining eating habits and BMI, in an appropriate way for their particular pathology.

Another aspect of treatment with CBT eating disorders, as a medical term at its most literal, suggests a lack of order, and so therapy can be used to help the patient plan their diet and maintain records of their success in sticking to this, in such a way as to support their particular eating disorder presentation.

How will a CBT professional support a patient?

Firstly, the therapist will meet the patient and gain an understanding as to how the eating disorder affects the patient’s day-to-day life. They will try to understand any motivation or triggers for the eating disorder. The therapist and patient will then come up with a plan together and the therapist will provide support by giving strategies to improve the areas identified with the patient.

This will take the form of exploring thoughts and ideas that are leading to the eating disorder in the patient and adapting these to support the patient in moving to a healthier diet and more positive body image. The therapist will try to address the underlying reasons for the eating disorder behaviours with the longer term objective of supporting the patient in their journey to living without their eating disorder affecting their daily life and health.

Through the use of CBT eating disorders can be managed effectively, enabling the patient to make healthier choices. Over time, they should feel better as a result of addressing underlying issues and modifying their thought processes around food and their own body image and self-esteem.

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