Although eating disorders (ED) often co-occur with a range of psychiatric disorders, evidence suggests that anxiety and mood disorders are the most common comorbid diagnoses with EDs.  This may be in part due to shared etiological and maintaining mechanisms, including cognitive, emotional, and behavioral avoidance.  Two cognitive behavioral techniques that specifically address avoidance in anxiety and depression, namely Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) and behavioral activation, appear to be similarly effective for EDs.

Though developed for the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the use of ERP for EDs has emerged from conceptualizations of EDs as anxiety-based disorders.  Recent findings point to the effectiveness of exposure-based interventions for both ED and comorbid ED/OCD populations.

In addition to anxiety and OCD, depressive disorders often accompany EDs and can negatively impact treatment by reducing motivation, treatment adherence and response. Behavioral activation is an empirically supported intervention for depression that focuses on reducing avoidance behaviors by encouraging active coping through engagement in pleasant, routine and valued activities.

There are three essential goals for this workshop:

  1. The first is to provide a conceptualization of EDs as anxiety-based disorders and review the relationships between EDs, anxiety, depression, and avoidance.
  2. Second, we will describe how exposure-based interventions are applied to both ED and anxiety disorders (e.g., food hierarchy, body image exposures, eating behaviors), as well as how we thought challenge for ED-specific maladaptive thoughts (e.g., weight gain).
  3. Third, we will provide an overview of behavioral activation and offer examples (e.g., horticulture, family passes, active coping) of how this intervention is applied in a residential treatment setting. Sufficient time will be allotted for questions from attendees.

Power point handouts will be made available.