Eating disorder focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-ED) and bulimia nervosa

Strong evidence – there is lots of high-quality evidence that some young people find this treatment option helpful.

You should be offered individual eating-disorder-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-ED) if bulimia-nervosa-focused family therapy (FT-BN) isn’t possible or hasn’t worked for you.

Individual CBT-ED usually involves 18 sessions over 6 months, with more frequent sessions early in the treatment. At the beginning of treatment, there will be a focus on the role that bulimia plays in your life and building your motivation to change. You should also be given information about eating disorders and how symptoms are maintained, while you gradually establish regular eating habits.

Your therapist should help you learn how to notice your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, how these affect each other and how they are linked to your eating disorder. They should teach you how to spot any unhelpful thoughts and help you to challenge these. CBT-ED also involves finding new ways to manage situations that might trigger bingeing or purging.

You might also have up to four extra sessions with your parents or carers, which should include information about eating disorders, discussing any issues within your family that could be getting in the way of recovery, and how your family can support your recovery.

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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