81 Bulimia & CBT

Based on research by G. Terrence Wilson, Ph.D. and Christopher G. Fairbairn, 2002. Psychology Science Minute written by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D..

With so much emphasis in films, advertising, and dating culture on “sexy, thin attractiveness” yet frequent advertising about fast foods that leads to weight gain, is it a wonder that many young women use extreme techniques to control their weight?

Bulimia is an emotional disorder creating an obsessive desire to lose weight by self-induced vomiting, laxative misuse, purging, fasting, or excessive exercise. These dangerous practices lead to feeling starved, then binge eating, potassium loss, and health deterioration. Body shape and weight unduly determine self-esteem.

Foremost researchers on eating disorders, G Terrence Wilson and C.G. Fairbairn reviewed extensive research and concluded that cognitive behavioral therapy has shown in controlled trials to be more acceptable and effective than other psychological treatments or antidepressant medication, especially in producing a complete cessation of binge eating and purging. This psychotherapy consists of about 20 individual sessions of cognitive and behavioral procedures designed to enhance motivation for change, replace dysfunctional dieting with a regular and flexible pattern of eating, decrease undue concern with body shape and weight, and prevent relapse.

There is hope.  If you find yourself or a friend binge eating and purging, find an experienced professional using cognitive behavioral therapy, the most researched evidence-based treatment for bulimia.


Wilson, G. T., & Fairburn, C. G. (2002). Eating disorders. In P. E. Nathan & J. M. Gorman (Eds.), Treatments that work (2nd ed., pp. 559–592). New York: Oxford University Press.

Wilson, G. T., Grilo, C. M., & Vitousek, K. M. (2007). Psychological treatment of eating disorders. American Psychologist, 62, 199-216.

Wilson, G. T., Fairburn, C. G., Agras, W. S., Walsh, B. T., & Kraemer, H. D. (2002). Cognitive behavior therapy for bulimia nervosa: Time course and mechanisms of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 267–274.

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