Eating disorder focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-ED) for binge eating disorder

Emerging evidence – there isn’t much evidence on this treatment option yet, but the research that has been carried out suggests that it could be helpful.

CBT is a type of therapy where you learn about how your feelings, thoughts and behaviours affect each other, and can help you change the way you think, behave and feel. “Cognitive” refers to the events that take place in your mind, such as thoughts, images, memories, or processes like worrying. “Behaviour” is what you do, for example hiding or avoiding something.

Group CBT-ED

Your professional could suggest group eating disorder-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-ED) if binge eating disorder-focused guided self-help isn’t possible, or hasn’t been helpful. Group CBT-ED should help you to cope with your triggers for binge eating and avoid binge eating episodes.

Group CBT-ED involves group meetings with other people of a similar age to yourself, with sessions specifically designed for young people. These sessions are usually 90-minutes each week for 4 months, including psychoeducation, support with monitoring your eating behaviour, and helping you to analyse your challenges and goals. The sessions also involve:

  • making a daily food plan
  • identifying binge eating cues
  • body exposure training
  • helping you to identify and change negative beliefs about your body

There may not be group CBT-ED available for people your age in your area, and if this is the case you should be offered individual CBT-ED instead.

Individual CBT-ED

You should be offered individual CBT-ED if group CBT-ED is not possible, or if you don’t feel a group is right for you.

Individual CBT-ED usually involves 16 to 20 sessions with a therapist, which will look at how your eating patterns, thoughts and feelings could contribute to your binge eating. Your therapist should work with you to establish a regular eating pattern and help you to learn strategies to manage triggers for your binge eating. This could include weekly monitoring of your binge eating behaviours, dietary intake and weight, with this information shared between you and your therapist.

CBT-ED might also include sessions with your parents or carers, to look at how they can support you with your eating disorder and any triggers.

CBT-ED does not aim for weight loss, but stopping binge eating can result in weight loss in the long term. You should not to try to lose weight during the treatment, as this could trigger your binge eating.

Treatments outlined on these webpages may not be available in every local area. It’s important that you discuss with your GP or mental health professional the treatment options available to you. You can also search for services near you on our Youth Wellbeing Directory and find out more about referral processes here.

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