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UAlbany Psychology Professor Tests New Treatment for Bulimia
Study garners $250,000 grant from National Institute of Mental Health

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 15, 2008) -- University at Albany Psychology Professor Drew Anderson is testing the efficacy of an alternative treatment to bulimia nervosa (BN), a debilitating eating disorder primarily affecting adolescent and young adult females. Funded by a $250,000 National Institute of Mental Health grant, Anderson's research examines the impact of functional contextual treatment, designed to help replace bulimic behaviors with healthier tendencies.

"Since a substantial minority of individuals with bulimia nervosa do not respond to current treatments, it is critical to develop alternative treatments for this serious disorder," said Anderson.

For his study, Anderson will recruit 10 people with the eating disorder and treat them individually using a tentative outline for functional contextual treatment. Based on the results, Anderson will create a standardized manual, including specific session-by-session treatment instructions for therapists. Anderson will test the completed manual on 40 individuals with BN, randomly selected for either an immediate treatment condition or a three-month delayed treatment condition. Three month follow-ups will be conducted on all participants. 

BN has high rates of medical and psychiatric co-morbidity and, left untreated, runs a chronic course. The disorder is typically treated through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT-BN), which identifies and monitors thoughts, assumptions, beliefs and behaviors related to debilitating negative emotions. However, a substantial minority of individuals do not respond to CBT-BN. Ultimately, Anderson's research will provide critical data on the feasibility of a future, large-scale controlled trial of functional contextual treatment.

"I hope that the new treatment will result in significant reductions in bulimic symptomatology," said Anderson, "and suspect that it will yield high completion rates and low levels of attrition."

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