CBT for eating disorders (CBT-E)

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are centred around a problematic relationship with body image and eating, but they are not only about food or weight, and are often linked to underlying struggles with managing emotions and distressing thoughts about the self. Eating disorders often involve: 

  • Feeling guilty about eating, trying to restrict your food intake, over-eating or binge-eating
  • Feeling the need to compensate for eating
  • Being preoccupied with your weight, shape and eating

Types of eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa – characterised by food restriction, a low body weight, disturbance in perception of own weight, fear of putting on weight
  • Atypical Anorexia Nervosa – same characteristics of Anorexia Nervosa however a persons body weight remains in what is regarded as the normal range. 
  • Bulimia Nervosa – Characterised by concern about weight or shape. Episodes of uncontrolled or “binge-eating” followed by a form of compensation – fasting, vomiting, laxative misuse, excessive exercise
  • Binge-Eating Disorder – characterised by episodes of uncontrolled or “binge-eating”. 
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CBT for eating disorders

One of the recommended treatments for eating disorders in adults is a specialist form of CBT called CBT-E. CBT-E is a highly individualised treatment tailored to suit your specific eating problems. Together we will develop personalised recovery goals and therapy plan. 

CBT-E has four stages;

  • During stage one the focus is on gaining a joint understanding of your eating problem and helping you to modify and stabilise your pattern of eating, this involves keeping a daily diary of your food intake, eating disorder behaviours, thoughts and feelings. Alongside this there is an emphasis on looking at objective information to debunk any “myths” about eating.
  • In the brief second stage, progress is reviewed and plans are made for stage three.
  • Stage three is the main body of treatment and focuses on the processes that are maintaining your eating problem. Usually this involves addressing dietary restraint, enhancing ability to deal with day-to-day events and moods and addressing concerns about shape and eating.
  • In stage four focus shifts to dealing with setbacks and maintaining changes for the future.

Some times check-ups with a GP or other healthcare practitioner might be suggested in combination with CBT to ensure that you are physically safe. 

Useful links for eating disorders