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Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for Bulimia nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder

A Review

Ricca V.a · Mannucci E.b · Zucchi T.a · Rotella C.M.b · Faravelli C.a
aPsychiatric Unit, Department of Neurologic and Psychiatric Sciences, and bSection of Metabolic Diseases and Diabetology, Unit of Endocrinology, Department of Clinical Pathophysiology, University of Florence, Italy Psychother Psychosom 2000;69:287–295 (DOI:10.1159/000012410)


Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) programmes for bulimia nervosa (BN) have been considerably refined during the last 2 decades, and such a treatment is now extensively used. The present paper describes the treatment rationale and structure, and reviews the available evidence on its efficacy. Compared to any other psychological or pharmacological treatment for which controlled studies have been published, CBT is reported to be more effective (the majority of studies), or at least as effective. A CBT programme for binge eating disorder (BED) has been created by adapting that of BN, but it has been less extensively evaluated in field trials. Even here, however, no other treatment has proven to be of greater efficacy than CBT. Various methodological limitations reduce the possibility of generalizing these findings. Moreover, CBT was found to be completely satisfactory neither for BN nor for BED, with moderate effectiveness and some limits. However, at the present state of treatment, no other therapeutical procedure seems to be more effective, more specific or more promising. It is speculated therefore that CBT could be presently considered the first-choice remedy for these severely disabling disorders.

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