Category: Eating Disorders


Exposure and Response Prevention for Binge Eating: Is Extinction to Food Cues Enough?

Saturday, November 18
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Cobalt 501, Level 5, Cobalt Level

Keywords: Eating Disorders | ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention)
Presentation Type: Symposium

Prior studies testing the efficacy of exposure and response prevention (ERP) for extinguishing disordered eating behaviors have produced inconsistent results. Research that aims to understand factors that explain these mixed findings is warranted. One explanation requiring additional study is the possibility that ERP, as a stand-alone behavioral intervention, may not effectively extinguish ED symptoms if cognitive components are not purposefully addressed alongside behavioral change. Noting this, the current study sought to test the effect of a standalone ERP protocol – conducted outside of the context of cognitive therapy – on disordered eating. In particular, this pilot study examined the impact of a brief ERP protocol on binge eating and overall eating pathology in a community-based sample of young adults seeking treatment for clinical or subclinical levels of binge eating (N = 53; 75% women; Mage = 19.8±4.1 years). Participants received one session of psychoeducation and formulated a “binge food” cue hierarchy with a Master’s-level researcher; this was followed by a 4-week in-laboratory ERP protocol. Altogether, participants completed four 30-minute ERP sessions involving cue exposure to an identified “binge food.” They completed visual analogue scales assessing anxiety, distress, hunger, and urge to binge every 5 minutes. Eating disorder symptoms were assessed prior to and following the intervention using the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q). Preliminary analyses suggest self-reported anxiety, distress, hunger, and urge to binge during ERP sessions decreased over time (baseline through end-of-treatment) (ps<.01). However, participants reported significant increases in EDE-Q global scores over time, t(54) = -2.57, p = .02, suggesting ERP alone may not be sufficient to affect significant change in overall eating pathology. Additional analyses will evaluate temporal patterns in mood and urge to binge throughout the 30-minute exposure sessions. Results, limitations, and future treatment development considerations will be discussed in relation to this investigation.

Lisa M. Anderson

Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Minnesota; University at Albany, SUNY


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Exposure and Response Prevention for Binge Eating: Is Extinction to Food Cues Enough?

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