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A Pilot Randomized Control Trial of Online Exposure for Eating Disorders and Mechanisms of Change Delivered after Discharge from Intensive Eating Disorder Care: A Registered Report

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Cheri A Levinson, Christina Ralph-Nearman, Mackenzie L. Brown, Taylor Gardner, Valentina Cardi, Janet Treasure, Kirstin L Purves, Thalia C Eley

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Accepted/In press26 Aug 2021

King's Authors

Abstract

More than 50% of individuals with an eating disorder (ED) will readmit to treatment within six-months of treatment discharge and often due to persistent cognitive ED pathology. Interventions addressing unremitted cognitive ED pathology following discharge from intensive treatment is crucial to prevent readmission. Imaginal exposure therapy facilitates the approach of feared stimuli not accessible in everyday life (e.g., rapidly gaining weight). In the current pilot randomized control trial (RCT) participants will be randomly assigned to a five-session online imaginal exposure condition (n = 65) or a control online writing and thinking intervention (n = 65) within a month of discharge from intensive treatment. Exposure participants write about and imagine an ED fear and control participants will write about their ED generally. We will examine the feasibility and acceptability of the treatment conditions and whether imaginal exposure is more effective in preventing readmission than the control condition. We will test the efficacy of the imaginal exposure treatment in reducing ED symptoms and fears of food and weight gain, and whether fear learning is a mechanism of change related to ED pathology. Ultimately, this research will lead to the development of an easily deployable readmission prevention treatment based on fear conditioning targets.

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