Researchers explore new self-help therapy for Binge Eating Disorder

While self-help psychology has become popular in recent years, self help approaches for the treatment of eating disorders that are backed by empirical research in psychology are rare. According to Phil Masson, PhD candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Calgary, this new manual could change that and contribute to the increasingly critical role self-help can play in improving access to mental health treatment and reducing health care costs.

“This new treatment aims to help people stop binge eating by learning healthy ways to cope with stressful situations, and giving them new strategies for controlling their emotions that don’t include food,” says Masson. “Self-help is one way of allowing many people to get evidence-based treatment. It is highly accessible treatment that is not dependent upon an individual’s financial capacity or geographic location.”

Binge eating disorder affects between two and four percent of the North American population. Compared to other eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, which predominantly affect women, binge eating disorder affects two men for every three women.

“It is characterized by eating a large amount of food in a short period of time, usually two hours, and is associated with an experience of loss of control, distress, as well as a lower quality of life compared to overweight and normal weight individuals,” says Masson.

The program is currently being tested by researchers, who will begin recruiting participants during eating disorder awareness week, which occurs February 6 – 12, and will continue until the study is full. The free program includes a self-help manual and six phone calls from a therapist over thirteen weeks to help support people as they work through the manual. In order to test the manual some individuals will receive the treatment right away while others will be asked to wait for 13 weeks. The goal of the research is to test the self help manual for its effectiveness and, if it proves to be useful, eventually publish it to make it publicly accessible. Anyone interested in participating in the study may contact Phil Masson at 403-210-9438 or [email protected]. All inquiries are confidential.