Eating Disorders Therapy Online
Specialised in therapy for eating disorders
At Psychology Therapy we are dedicated to providing expert care and support for individuals facing eating disorders. With a team of experienced and compassionate professionals, we provide therapy for a wide range of disordered eating and body image concerns, excluding severe cases of anorexia nervosa, as these cases often require specialized medical support, which we are not equipped to offer.
We can help with:
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder
- Mild cases of anorexia nervosa
- We also work with body image issues.
We offer personalized treatment strategies that combine evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy for eating disorders (CBT-E), with a holistic approach that considers your physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.
Whether you’re seeking help for yourself or a loved one, we are here to provide a supportive and nurturing environment. Take the first step towards healing by reaching out to us. Together, we’ll work towards a brighter and healthier future.
What is an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is a complex mental health condition characterized by disordered eating behaviours and a range of harmful habits and attitudes towards food, weight, and appearance. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), outlines several distinct types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED).
Depending on the type of eating disorder, common symptoms may include extreme weight fluctuations, preoccupation with food and calories, a relentless pursuit of thinness, and negative self-perception.
These disorders can have profound physical and psychological consequences, making early intervention and appropriate treatment essential. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, seeking professional help is crucial for both the individual’s physical health and emotional well-being.
When to seek help for eating disorders?
Recognizing the signs of an eating disorder and taking action early is crucial for effective treatment and a better chance of recovery. Numerous studies have shown that the earlier an eating disorder is addressed, the more positive the prospect of recovery becomes. While it’s natural to hope that things will improve on their own, very rarely do eating disorders resolve without professional intervention.
Research has consistently demonstrated that CBT-E for eating disorders significantly improves outcomes. Early intervention can prevent the disorder from progressing, minimize physical health risks, and reduce the long-term psychological impact. Otherwise, leaving an eating disorder untreated can lead to severe physical consequences and even death. The impact on both physical health and emotional well-being can be profound. This is why seeking help as soon as you notice warning signs is of paramount importance.
You don’t need an official diagnosis of an eating disorder to get help in Psychology Therapy. If you’re experiencing symptoms that concern you – such as changes in eating habits, negative body image, obsessions with food and weight, or distressing emotional states – we encourage you to contact us, as we specialize in eating disorders. Many individuals have successfully recovered with the help of therapy, and you can get better too.
Therapy for eating disorders
Cognitive-behavioural therapy for eating disorders (CBT-E)
CBT-E, or cognitive-behavioural therapy enhanced, is a specialized and evidence-based form of cognitive-behavioural therapy designed specifically for treating eating disorders. It was developed by Christopher G. Fairburn, a leading researcher in the field of eating disorders.
This modality of therapy is one of the most widely researched and recommended therapies for eating disorders. Numerous studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing binge eating, purging behaviours, and body dissatisfaction while promoting healthier eating habits and self-esteem.
It targets the underlying psychological factors contributing to disordered eating behaviours, such as distorted thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours related to food, weight, and body image.
How CBT-E works?
CBT-E is highly personalised in Psychology Therapy, but, typically it involves the following components:
- Assessment: The therapist assesses the individual’s eating behaviours, thoughts, emotions, and any co-occurring mental health conditions to tailor the treatment plan.
- Psychoeducation: Individuals learn about the nature of their eating disorder, the factors contributing to it, and the treatment process itself.
- Regular eating: CBT-E emphasizes establishing regular and balanced eating patterns to stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of binge eating.
- Monitoring and identifying patterns: Individuals track their eating behaviours, emotions, and thoughts to identify triggers for disordered eating episodes.
- Cognitive restructuring: Distorted thoughts and beliefs related to food, weight, and body image are challenged and replaced with more balanced and accurate perspectives.
- Behavioural strategies: Techniques such as exposure to feared foods, response prevention, and meal planning help individuals reduce avoidance behaviours and normalize eating.
- Problem-solving: Individuals learn skills to manage difficult situations and emotions without turning to disordered eating behaviours.
- Body image work: Addressing negative body image is a key component, in helping individuals develop a more positive and realistic perception of their bodies.
Efficacy of CBT-E for eating disorders: research studies
CBT-E has been extensively studied and has demonstrated strong efficacy in treating various eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Research studies have consistently shown positive outcomes:
- A study by Fairburn et al. (1993) demonstrated the effectiveness of CBT-E in treating bulimia nervosa, with participants experiencing a reduction in binge eating and purging behaviours.
- Fairburn et al. (2009) conducted a randomized controlled trial that compared CBT-E to a nonspecific supportive treatment for adults with anorexia nervosa. The study found that CBT-E was significantly more effective in promoting weight restoration and improving cognitive aspects of the disorder.
- In a study by Wilson et al. (2010), CBT-E was shown to be effective in treating binge eating disorder, leading to reductions in binge eating episodes and improved psychological well-being.
- According to Schmidt et al. (2015), CBT-E outperformed interpersonal psychotherapy in the treatment of bulimia nervosa, showcasing its robust effectiveness.
- A review by Linardon et al. (2018) analysed multiple studies and concluded that CBT-E is an effective treatment for a range of eating disorders, leading to significant reductions in disordered eating behaviours and improvements in psychological functioning.
While specific efficacy rates can vary based on the study population and methodology, the overall body of research consistently supports CBT-E as an effective treatment approach for eating disorders. This evidence underscores the importance of seeking out therapists trained in CBT-E techniques if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder.
At Psychology Therapy, we offer CBT-E for eating disorders. Contact us for more information!
Our approach to eating disorders therapy
At Psychology Therapy we provide therapy for a wide range of disordered eating and body image concerns, excluding severe cases of anorexia nervosa. These cases often require specialized medical support, which we are not equipped to offer.
Our dedicated team at Psychology Therapy consists of highly experienced integrative therapists, proficient in various approaches including CBT-E. This enables us to customize your therapy to precisely address your unique challenges. If you’re ready to overcome these struggles and improve your body image, reach out to us today.
Types of eating disorders
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), is a widely used classification system that provides criteria for diagnosing mental health disorders, including eating disorders. Here, we provide an overview of the eating disorders categorized within the DSM-5:
Individuals with anorexia nervosa exhibit an intense fear of weight gain, leading to self-imposed starvation and extreme weight loss. The disorder is characterized by distorted body image, rigid dietary restrictions, and concern with achieving a thin appearance.
Bulimia nervosa involves recurrent episodes of binge eating, followed by compensatory behaviours such as vomiting, fasting, or excessive exercise. People with bulimia often maintain a relatively normal weight, making their condition less visibly apparent.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating is marked by recurrent episodes of consuming excessive amounts of food in a short timeframe, accompanied by a sense of loss of control. Unlike bulimia, individuals with binge eating disorder do not engage in regular compensatory behaviours.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
ARFID is characterized by an extreme avoidance or restriction of certain foods due to sensory sensitivities, concerns about aversive consequences of food, or other factors unrelated to body image.
Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)
OSFED includes cases that do not precisely fit the criteria for the above disorders but still involve disordered eating behaviours causing distress or impairment. Examples include:
- Atypical Anorexia Nervosa: Significantly restrictive eating behaviours leading to weight loss, but with weight within or above the normal range.
- Bulimia Nervosa of Low Frequency and/or Limited Duration: Infrequent episodes of binge eating and compensatory behaviours, occurring less often or for a shorter duration.
- Binge Eating Disorder of Low Frequency and/or Limited Duration: Rare episodes of binge eating, happening less frequently or for a shorter time.
- Purging Disorder: Regular engagement in purging behaviours (vomiting, laxative use) without binge eating.
- Night Eating Syndrome: Consuming a substantial portion of daily calories during nighttime hours, coupled with insomnia and distress about eating patterns.
- Other Feeding or Eating Disorder: Behaviours causing significant distress or impairment, not fitting the criteria of specific disorders.
Eating disorders are complex conditions with multiple factors contributing to their development. These factors often interact in intricate ways, making it challenging to pinpoint a single cause. Although we don’t know the real causes of eating disorders, several interconnected influences are commonly associated with their onset:
- Genetic factors: Genetics play a role in predisposing individuals to eating disorders. Research suggests that having a family history of eating disorders or mental health conditions can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.
- Biological factors: Neurochemical imbalances, hormonal irregularities, and certain brain structures may contribute to the development of eating disorders. These factors can influence appetite regulation, mood, and impulse control.
- Psychological factors: Negative body image, low self-esteem, perfectionism, and feelings of inadequacy are common psychological factors linked to eating disorders. Psychological stressors, trauma, and past experiences can also play a role.
- Cultural influences: Societal pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards and cultural ideals of thinness can contribute to body dissatisfaction and the desire to control weight and appearance through disordered eating behaviours.
- Social factors: Peer pressure, social comparisons, and the influence of friends or family members with disordered eating habits can contribute to the development of eating disorders.
- Dieting and weight loss attempts: Restrictive dieting, especially when taken to extreme levels, can trigger or exacerbate eating disorders. Dieting can lead to a cycle of deprivation, bingeing, and guilt, contributing to the development of disordered eating patterns.
- Personality traits: Certain personality traits, such as perfectionism, impulsivity, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, may increase the vulnerability to developing eating disorders.
- Low self-esteem: Negative self-perception and a lack of self-worth can contribute to seeking control through disordered eating behaviours.
- Family dynamics: Dysfunctional family dynamics, a history of childhood abuse, or overemphasis on appearance and weight within the family can contribute to the development of eating disorders.
- Stress and life changes: Major life changes, transitions, or stressful events can trigger the onset of eating disorders as individuals may turn to disordered eating behaviours as a coping mechanism.
It’s important to note that eating disorders are not the result of a single cause but rather a combination of various factors. Additionally, not all individuals with risk factors will develop an eating disorder, and not everyone who develops an eating disorder will share the same experiences or triggers.
Eating disorders encompass a range of complex behaviours and psychological patterns that vary depending on the specific type of disorder. Below are some common symptoms associated with different types of eating disorders:
- Extreme weight loss or being significantly underweight.
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat.
- Restrictive eating and severe calorie restriction.
- Excessive preoccupation with food, calories, and dieting.
- Distorted body image and denial of being underweight.
- Skipping meals or avoiding eating in front of others.
- Ritualistic eating behaviours and food rituals.
- Excessive exercise to burn calories.
- Social withdrawal and isolation.
- Physical symptoms like cold intolerance, fatigue, and hair loss.
- Frequent episodes of consuming large amounts of food in a short period (binge eating).
- Feeling a lack of control during binge eating episodes.
- Recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behaviours like vomiting, laxative use, fasting, or excessive exercise.
- Preoccupation with body shape and weight.
- Regularly going to the bathroom after meals.
- Mood swings, anxiety, or depression.
- Sore throat, dental problems, or swollen salivary glands due to vomiting.
- Fluctuations in weight.
Binge Eating Disorder
- Recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food in a short time.
- Feeling a lack of control during binge eating episodes.
- Eating alone because of embarrassment about the quantity of food consumed.
- Distress and guilt after binge eating.
- Rapid eating and eating when not hungry.
- Weight gain and struggles with weight management.
- Emotional distress, anxiety, or depression.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
- Limited food preferences based on texture, smell, taste, or appearance.
- Avoidance of certain foods or food groups.
- Extreme pickiness when it comes to eating.
- Weight loss, lack of growth, or nutrient deficiencies.
- Concerns about aversive consequences related to eating.
- Anxiety or distress around eating in social situations.
It’s important to note that each individual’s experience of an eating disorder may be unique, and symptoms can overlap. Additionally, the severity and presentation of symptoms can vary widely.
Do you offer eating disorders therapy near me?
We offer online eating disorders therapy because this way we can reach you out whenever you are in the world. We are trained in the United Kingdom and provide cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).
Fairburn, C. G., Cooper, Z., Doll, H. A., O’Connor, M. E., Bohn, K., Hawker, D. M., … & Palmer, R. L. (2009). Transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioral therapy for patients with eating disorders: A two-site trial with 60-week follow-up. American Journal of Psychiatry, 166(3), 311-319.
Fairburn, C. G., Jones, R., Peveler, R. C., Hope, R. A., & O’Connor, M. (1993). Psychotherapy and bulimia nervosa: Longer-term effects of interpersonal psychotherapy, behavior therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50(6), 419-428.
Linardon, J., Brennan, L., de la Piedad Garcia, X., & Murray, S. B. (2018). The efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy for eating disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 86(10), 723-737.
Schmidt, U., Oldershaw, A., Jichi, F., Sternheim, L., Startup, H., McIntosh, V., … & Tchanturia, K. (2015). Out-patient psychological therapies for adults with anorexia nervosa: Randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 207(5), 392-399.
Wilson, G. T., Wilfley, D. E., Agras, W. S., & Bryson, S. W. (2010). Psychological treatments of binge eating disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(1), 94-101.