A Randomized Trial of Virtual Reality-Based Cue Exposure Second-Level Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Second-Level Therapy for Bulimia Nervosa and Binge-Eating Disorder: Outcome at Six-Month Followup

This article reviews the 6-month followup data of a randomized, multicenter, parallel-group study conducted at five clinical sites in three European cities, which compared two second-level treatments for bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED): virtual reality-based cue exposure therapy (VR-CET) versus additional cognitive behavioral therapy (A-CBT). Post-treatment outcomes of this study were previously published and details of its design can be found at clinicaltrials.gov (identifier: NCT02237300). This article focuses on the evolution of symptoms assessed after 6 months of followup in a subgroup of 58 patients from the original study. In this study 64 patients with eating disorders (EDs) (35 with BN and 29 with BED), who still showed active episodes of binge eating by the end of a structured CBT program (first-level treatment), were randomly assigned to one of two second-level treatments (A-CBT or VR-CET). Frequency of binge and purge episodes, and attitudinal features of binge-related EDs (bulimia, drive for thinness, and body dissatisfaction) were assessed before starting the second-level treatment (n = 64), at the end (n = 64), and at 6-month followup (n = 58). Mixed between-within subject analyses of variance were used to compare outcomes of both second-level treatments over time. Although both treatment conditions showed statistically significant improvements at the end and after 6-month followup, obtained reductions were greater after VR-CET, regarding binge and purge episodes, as well as the decrease of self-reported tendency to engage in overeating episodes. Accordingly, abstinence from binge episodes were higher in VR-CET than A-CBT at followup (70 percent vs. 26 percent, respectively; chi(2) = 11.711, p = 0.001). These results provide further support for the use of VR-CET as an effective second-level intervention for BN and BED treatment-resistant patients.

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