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Digital Cognitive Therapy Aids College Women With Eating Disorders

Coached, digital intervention effective for reducing psychopathology, depression, clinical impairment

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TUESDAY, Sept. 1, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A coached, digital cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention is effective for reducing eating disorder psychopathology, compensatory behaviors, depression, and clinical impairment among college women, according to a study published online Aug. 31 in JAMA Network Open.

Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, Ph.D., from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues recruited 690 women from universities with binge-purge eating disorders to examine whether a coached, digital, CBT intervention improves outcomes compared with usual care.

The researchers found that at the postintervention assessment and over the follow-up period, there was a significantly greater reduction in the intervention group versus the control group for eating disorder psychopathology. At the postintervention assessment and follow-up, there was no significant difference noted in abstinence from any eating disorder behaviors. At the postintervention assessment, the intervention group had significantly greater reductions in binge eating, compensatory behaviors, depression, and clinical impairment compared with the control group; for all outcomes except binge eating, these gains were sustained through follow-up. There was no difference between the groups in terms of academic impairment. Eighty-three percent of the intervention participants began the intervention, while only 28 percent of control participants sought eating disorder treatment.

"Now is the time for all good mental health practitioners to embrace these and similar therapeutic tools and come to the aid of our college students," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and weight loss industries.

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