The Stanford researchers were primarily interested in comparing two types of treatment for binge eating: cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. The former is standard treatment for eating disorders and involves learning to understand and change eating habits and body-image beliefs. Interpersonal therapy, in contrast, focuses solely on correcting relationship problems. So, in these sessions, there was no talk of food, diets, or body image.

To researchers’ surprise, the women who were randomly assigned to the radically different interpersonal therapy group achieved the same rate of success in as short a time as the behavioral group. About half of them had stopped binging within 16 weeks.

“All of the women had a variety of problems in their relationships, but in the interpersonal therapy sessions, we discovered that difficulty with assertion was characteristic,” Agras explains. “The binging may be a faulty coping mechanism. If you cope badly with relationship issues, when you’re upset you eat. It’s soothing.”

Interpersonal therapy was originally devised to help with depression (which experts say, can also have a lot of anger behind it).

Vol 10 Issue 3 page 5

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