New study explores guided self-help intervention for disordered eating

ACU researchers are trialling a program to address thoughts and behaviours about eating and weight before they develop into an eating disorder.


A new investigation into the treatment of disordered eating is focusing on self-help as a more efficient and cost effective way of addressing an issue affecting at least 20 per cent of Australian young people.

Disordered eating including binge eating, emotional eating, consistent overeating, or yo-yo dieting has more than doubled since the early 90s.

Chief researcher Jake Linardon, PhD candidate at Australian Catholic University (ACU), said disordered eating stands in the way of emotional, social and physical development, and prevents people from living a full life.

Individuals exhibiting disordered eating often do not receive current evidence-based treatments, Linardon’s findings show.

Reasons for this include: an insufficient number of therapists who are adequately trained in evidence-based treatments for disordered eating; and health insurance schemes not typically providing enough cover for the necessary treatments.

Linardon is trialling a program to address thoughts and behaviours about eating and weight before they develop into an eating disorder.

“We are looking for a more effective way for people to address problematic behaviours while at the same time promoting general self-acceptance, which will have an impact on their day to day wellbeing,” he said.

“This is a group of people who probably wouldn't normally access treatment, but available research suggests they can achieve significant improvements with minimal therapist input.”

Providing these evidence-based treatments in a guided self-help format, and showing that these treatments are beneficial and effective for this population, will make a real difference.

“Guided self-help programs can be delivered by training a range of health professionals. They are typically shorter than traditional therapist-led treatments, requiring only eight-10 sessions and are therefore more affordable,” Linardon said.

“People will be coached through the program and helped to develop skills they can continue using independently after the program has finished.

“It is about empowering people to help themselves and live healthier, happier lives.”

Ultimately, demonstrating that these programs are effective will go a long way toward improving the health of a significant portion of the population.

To do that Linardon is looking for people to participate in the next stage of his study.

Anyone over the age of 18 living in Melbourne who experiences one or more of following: recurrent binge eating (i.e., eating a large amount of food given the circumstances, and feeling like it is out of control), emotional eating, consistent overeating, or yo-yo dieting tendencies is invited to be involved. Men and women are both encouraged to take part. Participation is free.

A provisional psychologist will be assigned to each participant to help guide them through an eight-week program.

Individuals with serious eating disorders (i.e., anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa) or individuals with serious psychiatric illness (e.g., schizophrenia, personality disorders) will not be included in the study.

To register your interest email BEWTresearch.FHS@acu.edu.au

 

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