Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

CBT is best known for the effective treatment of depression and anxiety. It also has a high track record for treating eating disorders. It is a here-and-now approach. Rather than focusing on the historical causes for your problems, CBT practitioners look for conditions in the present that keep your eating disorder going and aim to disrupt those conditions. CBT practitioners believe that problems, including eating disorders, are usually maintained by distorted thinking. Distorted thinking, in turn, leads to troubling emotions and problematic behaviors.

In the case of eating disorders, CBT zooms in on the typical distorted though that your worth is determined by your body size and shape. Related beliefs involve body image, an obsession with being thin, fat phobia, being in control, and being perfect. A cognitive-behavioral therapist aims to undermine these beliefs and help you replace them with more realistic, constructive ones. CBT assumes that when you undermine the core beliefs, you undermine the disorder itself. The behaviors aren't likely to continue without the beliefs that fuel them.

In CBT, you're expected to work from the beginning on gradually changing behaviors central to the disorder: bingeing, purging, dieting, food rituals, starving, and compulsive exercise. Overall, CBT for eating disorders aims at correcting symptomatic behavior and changing problem-causing attitudes about food, eating, and body image.

(c) 2008 Susan Schullherr