The Efficacy of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Abstract

Objective: This meta-analysis examined the efficacy of cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) for eating disorders. Method: Randomized controlled trials of CBT were searched. Seventy-nine trials were included. Results: Therapist-led CBT was more efficacious than inactive (wait-lists) and active (any psychotherapy) comparisons in individuals with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Therapist-led CBT was most efficacious when manualized CBT-BN or its enhanced version was delivered. No significant differences were observed between therapist-led CBT for bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder and antidepressants at posttreatment. CBT was also directly compared to other specific psychological interventions, and therapist-led CBT resulted in greater reductions in behavioral and cognitive symptoms than interpersonal psychotherapy at posttreatment. At follow-up, CBT outperformed interpersonal psychotherapy only on cognitive symptoms. CBT for binge eating disorder also resulted in greater reductions in behavioral symptoms than behavioral weight loss interventions. There was no evidence that CBT was more efficacious than behavior therapy or nonspecific supportive therapies. Conclusions: CBT is efficacious for eating disorders. Although CBT was equally efficacious to certain psychological treatments, the fact that CBT outperformed all active psychological comparisons and interpersonal psychotherapy specifically, offers some support for the specificity of psychological treatments for eating disorders. Conclusions from this study are hampered by the fact that many trials were of poor quality. Higher quality RCTs are essential.

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