Public Release: 

Interpersonal psychotherapy effective in treating binge-eating disorder

The JAMA Network Journals

CHICAGO - Group interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is equally as effective as group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for treating binge eating disorder, according to an article in the August issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Binge eating disorder (BED) affects 1.5 percent to 2 percent of the general population. BED is characterized by frequent and persistent episodes of overeating, or bingeing where the patient looses the ability to control how much food he or she eats. Bingeing episodes are usually accompanied by feelings of loss of control, distress and guilt.

CBT has been the standard therapy for treating BED and focuses on changing unwanted behaviors and the thoughts that are associated with them. CBT requires that the patient complete a considerable amount of homework, such as practicing behavior changing techniques and writing assignments. IPT is a brief, structured psychotherapy that explores social and interpersonal problems.

Denise E. Wilfley, Ph.D., of San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego, and colleagues studied the effectiveness of CBT and IPT in 162 patients with binge-eating disorder. These patients were randomly assigned to receive either 20 weeks of group CBT or 20 weeks of group IBT. Patients were followed up after treatment ended, and at 4 month intervals for the next 12 months.

Binge-eating recovery rates were equivalent for participants in CBT and IBT with 64 of 81 patients (79 percent) experiencing a recovery in the CBT group and 59 of 81 patients (73 percent) in the IBT group. At one-year follow up, recovery was at 59 percent for the CBT group, and 62 percent for the IBT group. Binge eating increased slightly through follow up, but remained significantly below pre-treatment levels, the authors write.

"Dietary restraint decreased more quickly in CBT but IPT had equivalent levels by later follow ups. Patients' relative weight decreased significantly but only slightly, with the greatest reduction among patients sustaining recovery from binge eating from post treatment to 1-year follow up," write the researchers.

The authors conclude that "Group IPT is a viable alternative to group CBT for the treatment of overweight patients with BED."


(Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002;59:713-721. Available post-embargo at

Editor's Note: This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md.

For More Information: contact the JAMA/Archives Media Relations Department at 312/464-JAMA (5262).

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.