Cognitive-behavioral therapy approach is based on the idea that sufferers can learn to recognize all kinds of negative or eating disorder thoughts and work to deal with them and replace them with more positive and rational ones. The main idea is that as negative thoughts are managed and replaced, disordered behaviors and negative emotions also change over time.
Although this therapy is often used to treat a number of mental disorders, when it comes to eating disorders, it’s based on the idea that all of these conditions share the same issue with people’s cognition or thinking. In most cases, it includes thinking that their self-worth is based only on their body size, shape and weight. This is what results in different disordered behaviors, including purging and restricting.
Just like many other treatment options, cognitive-behavioral therapy starts with qualified therapists learning more about their patients and assessing their eating disorders and other re-occurring problems. As this treatment continues, doctors also assign different homework tasks, including monitoring regular food intake and feelings or ideas about eating in addition to any urges to act on specific eating disorder behaviors and searching for possible triggers and patterns.
Next, therapists work with patients to recognize their disordered thoughts and help them learn how to manage them effectively. At first, this treatment can be focused on addressing the emotions and thoughts related to eating and how people perceive their body size and shape. This therapy may progress to addressing other major issues, including perfectionism, body checking, relationship issues and low self-esteem.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most efficient and well-studied treatments for a range of mental and eating disorders. According to the latest research, its effectiveness is proven when treating such conditions as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. There are many studies that researched bulimia nervosa, and they prove that up to 50% patients can stop purging and binge eating after undergoing this treatment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is very flexible, because it’s easily adapted to be used in many inpatient and outpatient settings. Doctors can adapt it to be used in group therapy settings and allow the inclusion of relatives. Many patients with eating disorders also have specific symptoms of anxiety and depression, and they can be treated with this therapy too. It’s worth noting that many research studies and tests using cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat eating disorders were targeted at adults.
This therapy is often chosen to treat both adolescents and adults with eating disorders. However, adolescents have their developmental stage, which demands an effective family-based method. Maudsley, or a family-based treatment, is the most researched method to treat adolescents who have anorexia nervosa. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be hard to use by those patients who refuse to take part in the entire treatment process. Finally, it can be also difficult to implement it in patients who misuse alcohol or drugs on a regular basis or have psychotic states.