The package, initially developed as a CD-ROM cognitive-behavioural self-help tool for the treatment of the eating disorder bulimia nervosa (BN), is set to revolutionise therapy.

University of Glasgow psychiatrist Dr Chris Williams and colleagues from the Institute of Psychiatry, London are planning to launch an on-line version of the innovation, which is to be delivered to adolescents and young adults affected by bulimia nervosa.

Initial trials of the first stand-alone computerised treatment for eating disorder patients have been very successful and all patients involved in the pilot made significant improvements. The CD-ROM proved to be particularly effective in reducing vomiting and laxative abuse. This is important, as research has revealed that an early reduction in vomiting is a good predictor of positive longer-term outcomes in the treatment of bulimia.

Many patients with bulimia nervosa find it hard to access evidence based treatment such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Although it is one of the preferred treatments for emotional and behavioural problems, CBT is labour intensive, and often not readily available.

Given the rise in the number of sufferers and the under-provision of eating disorder services, a major challenge is to make treatment more accessible. Now, computer-based packages such as this are helping to bridge the treatment gap.

The shame and secretiveness surrounding bulimia makes computer-based treatment particularly appealing to sufferers. Other key advantages of the interactive intervention are that it allows an individually tailored delivery, it uses a variety of media, and a mixture of teaching styles to facilitate the learning of self-management.

A recent study into the usefulness of the CD-ROM involving 47 sufferers of bulimia revealed significant reductions in binging and self-induced vomiting.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Glasgow