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Keywords:

  • self-help;
  • cognitive-behavioral therapy;
  • bulimia nervosa

Abstract

Objective

The aim of the current study was to evaluate whether guided self-help was effective in the short and long term in the treatment of bulimia nervosa.

Method

Eighty-one patients with bulimia nervosa were randomly assigned to either a self-help manual with a maximum of 18 short weekly visits (guided self-help) or to 18 weekly 1.5-h sessions of cognitive-behavioral group therapy (CBT). The primary outcome variables were monthly frequencies of self-reported binge eating and vomiting episodes. Secondary outcome variables were eating disorder-related psychopathology (assessed with the Eating Disorders Inventory [EDI]) and depression (assessed by the Beck Depression Inventory [BDI]). Patients were followed up 1 year after the end of treatment.

Results

A mixed-effects linear regression analysis indicated that subjects in both treatment conditions showed a significant decrease over time in binge eating and vomiting frequencies, in the scores of the EDI subscales, and in the BDI. Both treatment modalities led to a sustained improvement at follow-up. A separate analysis of the completer sample showed significantly higher remission rates in the self-help condition (74%) compared with the CBT condition (44%) at follow-up.

Conclusions

Guided self-help incorporating the use of a self-help manual offers an approach that can be effective in the short and long-term treatment of bulimia nervosa. © 2004 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 35: 522–537, 2004.