Two new studies addressing treatment and evaluation for bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, eating disorders which affect approximately 3 percent of the American population, have begun at the School of Medicine.
Carlos M. Grilo, assistant professor of psychiatry and director of psychology at the Yale Psychiatric Institute, heads both studies, which are funded by the National Institutes of Health. The studies will hopefully help determine the efficacy of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy treatment for the disorders, he says.
The first study will analyze the use of an anti-depressant (fluoxetine) combined with a second medication in treating bulimia nervosa, which is characterized by bingeing and purging and/or extensive use of laxatives. "Anti-depressants are widely prescribed in the treatment of bulimia," says Professor Grilo. "However, over time we have seen that nearly 50 percent of patients treated with fluoxetine either do not improve substantially or seem to derive less benefit with continued use." In an effort to avoid this negative reaction, Professor Grilo believes an accompanying medication, which is normally used to treat hypertension, will interrupt the adjustment the body makes to the anti-depressant, and hopefully will enhance its effectiveness for longer periods of time.
Forty women, ages 18 to 50 who suffer from bulimia and are currently taking fluoxetine, are sought to enroll in this study. They will receive free treatment and psychological evaluations.
The second study is directed to both men and women who binge eat but do not purge afterwards. "Binge eaters have frequent episodes of losing control over their eating, eat large amounts of food, and then feel incredibly guilty afterward," explains Professor Grilo. "And for reasons we do not yet understand, binge eaters don't seem to develop some of the extreme weight control practices that bulimics practice."
This study will compare two approaches to treatment: cognitive behavior therapy practiced by psychologists and medication, usually prescribed by psychiatrists. By comparing the two treatments during a 16-week period, Professor Grilo hopes to discover whether the psychological or medical treatment is more effective, or if the best approach is a combination of the two methods.
Eligible participants will receive free evaluation and treatment.
For more information, call the Yale Psychiatric Institute at 785- 7201.