Comparing Therapies for Binge Eating

Binge eating disorder symptoms were improved with cognitive behavioral therapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) We all over-eat from time to time, but people with Binge-eating disorder (BED) do it so often that it can get in the way of daily life. A new study compared therapy and medication for BED.

The study compared people taking an antidepressant, people doing talk therapy, and people getting both. They found that people who had the therapy showed lasting improvement in their symptoms.

Taking the medication did not have any added benefit.

"Tell your doctor if your eating feels out of control."

BED is more than just occasional overeating. People with BED feel out of control when they overeat. They may hide their binges and feel ashamed.

Left untreated it can lead to depression and obesity, which both have other related health problems.

Carlos M. Grilo, PhD, director of the Eating Disorders and Obesity Research Program at the Yale University School of Medicine, and colleagues looked at three treatment options for people with BED.

A total of 81 people with BED who were overweight were in the study.

People in the study had one of three therapy strategies. Some took Prozac (fluoxetine) an antidepressant. Others took Prozac and participated in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and the rest had CBT and a placebo pill (or sugar pill).

CBT is a form of talk therapy that focuses on noticing negative thinking and learning to change it. Changing the thought processes to help people deal with stressful situations better.

Antidepressants are sometimes useful for people with eating disorders because they can help with some symptoms.

After the participants in the study finished treatment, the researchers followed-up with them six months and one year later.

After one year, more people getting CBT were in remission – meaning their symptoms had mostly gone away. Only 3.7 percent of people just taking Prozac were in remission. 

Rates of remission were similar for both groups of people getting CBT. About 27 percent of people who took Prozac and did CBT were in remission. About 38 percent of people who did CBT and took the placebo were in remission after one year.

While symptoms were improved for all people getting CBT, it did not improve weight loss.

The authors concluded that CBT is effective for helping symptoms of BED, and the effects last at least one year.

The antidepressant, Prozac, was not effective for most people on its own and it did not enhance the effects of CBT.

This study was published September 17 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Funding information and conflicts of interest were not available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 25, 2012
Last Updated:
September 30, 2012