The Role of Regular Eating and Self-Monitoring in the Treatment of Bulimia Nervosa: A Pilot Study of an Online Guided Self-Help CBT Program

Abstract: Background: Despite cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) being regarded as the first-line treatment option for bulimia nervosa (BN), barriers such as its time-consuming and expensive nature limit patient access. In order to broaden treatment availability and affordability, the efficacy and convenience of CBT could be improved through the use of online treatments and selective emphasis on its most ‘potent’ components of which behavioural techniques form the focus. Method: Twenty-six individuals with BN were enrolled in an online CBT-based self-help programme and 17 completed four weeks of regular eating and food-monitoring using the online Food Diary tool. Participants were contacted for a weekly check-in phone call and had their bulimic symptom severity assessed at five time points (baseline and weeks 1–4). Results: There was a significant decrease in the frequency of self-reported objective binge episodes, associated loss of control and objective binge days reported between pre- and post-treatment measures. Significant improvements were also observed in most subscales of the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire. Conclusion: This study provides encouraging preliminary evidence of the potential of behavioural techniques of online CBT in the treatment of BN. Online therapy with this focus is potentially a viable and practical form of treatment delivery in this illness group. These preliminary findings support the need for larger studies using control groups.

Are the Gut Bacteria Telling Us to Eat or Not to Eat? Reviewing the Role of Gut Microbiota in the Etiology, Disease Progression and Treatment of Eating Disorders

Abstract: Traditionally recognized as mental illnesses, eating disorders are increasingly appreciated to be biologically-driven. There is a growing body of literature that implicates a role of the gut microbiota in the etiology and progression of these conditions. Gut bacteria may act on the gut–brain axis to alter appetite control and brain function as part of the genesis of eating disorders. As the illnesses progress, extreme feeding patterns and psychological stress potentially feed back to the gut ecosystem that can further compromise physiological, cognitive, and social functioning. Given the established causality between dysbiosis and metabolic diseases, an altered gut microbial profile is likely to play a role in the co-morbidities of eating disorders with altered immune function, short-chain fatty acid production, and the gut barrier being the key mechanistic links. Understanding the role of the gut ecosystem in the pathophysiology of eating disorders will provide critical insights into improving current treatments and developing novel microbiome-based interventions that will benefit patients with eating disorders.

The assessment and treatment of unhealthy exercise in adolescents with anorexia nervosa: A Delphi study to synthesize clinical knowledge

Abstract: This study aimed to explore and synthesize expert clinical knowledge on defining and managing unhealthy exercise in adolescents with AN. The Delphi methodology was used. Clinicians (n = 25) considered experts in the treatment of AN in adolescents were recruited internationally to form the panel. The first round of the questionnaires was comprised of five open-ended questions regarding defining, assessing, and treating unhealthy exercise in adolescents with AN. Statements were derived from this data using content analysis, and included as Likert-based items in two subsequent rounds, in which panellists were required to rate their level of agreement for each item. All 25 respondents completed the three rounds of questionnaires. Consensus was achieved for 59.0% of the items included in the second and third round of questionnaires. Although consensus was not achieved, compulsive exercise was the preferred term for the panel when referring to unhealthy exercise in adolescents with AN. The panel clearly delineated features of unhealthy and healthy exercise, and endorsed a number of items considered important to assess for when evaluating exercise in this clinical population. A variety of treatment approaches and strategies reached consensus. Notably, for those who are medically stable and progressing toward recovery, the panel recommended initial exercise restriction practices and reintroducing healthy exercise behaviors, rather than exercise cessation practices. The current findings can serve as preliminary treatment guidelines. A unified approach to labeling and defining unhealthy exercise in the eating disorder literature and clinical settings is required to achieve further progress.

Intolerance of Uncertainty in eating disorders: An update on the field

Abstract: Pathological fear and anxiety regarding food, eating, weight and body shape are at the core of eating disorder (ED) psychopathology. To manage anxiety, patients develop complicated repertoires of ritualistic and repetitive behaviours, which can lead to total functional impairment. Yet the cognitive processes underlying anxiety, fear, and anxiety-driven behaviours in EDs remain poorly understood. Intolerance of Uncertainty (IU) is defined as a tendency to react negatively on an emotional, cognitive, and behavioural level to uncertain situations and events. There is substantial evidence that IU is a transdiagnostic process that contributes to the maintenance of anxiety disorders; however, IU may also be relevant to the understanding and treatment of EDs. The current review summarises the growing literature examining IU in relation to ED symptoms, including restriction, bingeing, purging, ritualised behaviours, reassurance-seeking and body checking. Extending from the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorder literature, we propose that IU provides a novel theoretical and clinical framework from which to understand the anxiety, fixation with rules and rituals, and the cognitively rigid profile that is characteristic of ED presentations. We conclude with suggestions for future research, and discuss IU as a potential treatment target for core features of EDs and comorbid symptoms.


This article outlines the voluntary and coercive treatment of eating disorders under both the Mental Health Act 2007 and the Guardianship Act 1987. It was published in the Law Society Journal, September 2017.

Click here for article: LSJ September 2017

Intranasal oxytocin in the treatment of anorexia nervosa: Randomised controlled trial during re-feeding

Abstract: Background: Nutritional rehabilitation in anorexia nervosa (AN) is impeded by fear of food, eating and change leading to treatment resistance. Oxytocin (OT) exerts prosocial effects and modulates trust, fear, anxiety and neuroplasticity. The current placebo-controlled RCT examined the effects of intranasal oxytocin (IN-OT) in AN. The aim was to ascertain whether repeated doses of IN-OT enhance treatment outcomes in AN. Methods: AN patients self-administered 36 IU IN-OT or placebo daily for 4–6 weeks during hospital treatment. The outcome measures were change in the Eating Disorders Examination (EDE) scale, weight gain, cognitive rigidity, social anxiety, obsessive and autistic symptoms. The effects of the first and last doses of IN-OT were assessed relative to placebo before and after a high-energy afternoon snack, to determine potential dampening of cortisol and anxiety levels by OT. Results: Weight gain was similar in both groups. The EDE eating concern subscale score was significantly lower after IN-OT treatment as was cognitive rigidity. There were no significant differences in social anxiety or any of the other outcomes at follow-up. After four weeks IN-OT, salivary cortisol levels were significantly lowered in anticipation of an afternoon snack compared to placebo. Morning plasma OT levels did not change after chronic IN-OT or with weight restoration. Conclusion: IN-OT might enhance nutritional rehabilitation in AN by reducing eating concern and cognitive rigidity. Lower salivary cortisol levels in response to IN-OT suggest diminished neuroendocrine stress responsiveness to food and eating. Such effects require replication with inclusion of more sensitive subjective measures.

Abstract: Background: This study investigated patient experience in a Family Admissions Program (FAP) – a pilot treatment program for adolescents with Anorexia Nervosa at the Children’s Hospital, Westmead. Based on Maudsley Family Based Treatment (FBT), the FAP involves an adolescent and his/her family undergoing a two-week family-based hospital admission at the outset of treatment. The program aims to increase intensity and support to a level needed by some families struggling to engage with or access FBT. Method: Narrative Inquiry and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis were used as a dual methodological approach to explore the prospective expectations and retrospective experiences of participants partaking in the program. Results: Results indicated that in cases where the family unit has been particularly fractured as a result of the eating disorder, the FAP offers an opportunity for relational strengthening and reunification. Combined with the program’s intensive support and proximity to hospital services, this serves to provide struggling families with enhanced skills and a stronger foundation for outpatient FBT. Conclusions: For families deemed at risk of unsuccessful outcomes with FBT, the FAP can be considered as an appropriate treatment adjunct to place alongside or before the commencement of FBT.

Examining a staging model for anorexia nervosa: empirical exploration of a four stage model of severity

Abstract: Background: An illness staging model for anorexia nervosa (AN) has received increasing attention, but assessing the merits of this concept is dependent on empirically examining a model in clinical samples. Building on preliminary findings regarding the reliability and validity of the Clinician Administered Staging Instrument for Anorexia Nervosa (CASIAN), the current study explores operationalising CASIAN severity scores into stages and assesses their relationship with other clinical features. Method: In women with DSM-IV-R AN and sub-threshold AN (all met AN criteria using DSM 5), receiver operating curve (ROC) analysis (n = 67) assessed the relationship between the sensitivity and specificity of each stage of the CASIAN. Thereafter chi-square and post-hoc adjusted residual analysis provided a preliminary assessment of the validity of the stages comparing the relationship between stage and treatment intensity and AN sub-types, and explored movement between stages after six months (Time 3) in a larger cohort (n = 171). Results: The CASIAN significantly distinguished between milder stages of illness (Stage 1 and 2) versus more severe stages of illness (Stages 3 and 4), and approached statistical significance in distinguishing each of the four stages from one other. CASIAN Stages were significantly associated with treatment modality and primary diagnosis, and CASIAN Stage at Time 1 was significantly associated with Stage at 6 month follow-up. ConclusionsProvisional support is provided for a staging model in AN. Larger studies with longer follow-up of cases are now needed to replicate and extend these findings and evaluate the overall utility of staging as well as optimal staging models.