Psychological Treatments for Eating Disorders

Andrea E. Kass; Rachel P. Kolko; Denise E. Wilfley


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2013;26(6):549-555. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose of review This review summarizes recent evidence on psychological treatments for eating disorders.

Recent findings Eating disorders are serious psychiatric conditions requiring evidence-based intervention. Treatments have been evaluated within each eating disorder diagnosis and across diagnoses. For adults with anorexia nervosa, no one specialist treatment has been shown to be superior. Cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy remain the most established treatments for bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, with stepped-care approaches showing promise and new behavioral treatments under study. Enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy has improved symptoms in adults and youth. Maudsley family-based therapy is the most established treatment for youth with anorexia nervosa and may be efficacious for youth with bulimia nervosa. Interpersonal psychotherapy for the prevention of excess weight gain may be efficacious for reducing loss of control eating and weight gain in overweight youth.

Summary Significant advances in treatments have been made, including evaluation of long-term outcomes, novel approaches, and tailored extension for specific patient profiles. However, widespread access to effective eating disorder treatments remains limited. Increasing the potency and expanding the implementation of psychological treatments beyond research settings into clinical practice has strong potential to increase access to care, thereby reducing the burden of eating disorders.


This review discusses evidence-based psychological treatments for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and subclinical diagnoses, with a focus on clinical research updates from the past 18 months. Future directions for eating disorder treatment research are provided, including strategies to increase the potency, dissemination, and implementation of evidence-based treatments.