10.1192/bjp.bp.111.098582Access the most recent version at DOI:
Karin Waldherr, Çiçek Wöber-Bingöl and Andreas F. K. Karwautz
Gudrun Wagner, Eva Penelo, Christian Wanner, Paulina Gwinner, Marie-Louise Trofaier, Hartmut Imgart,
randomised controlled trial
guided self-help for bulimia nervosa: long-term evaluation of a
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A new form of treatment for bulimia nervosa has emerged that
platforms usually supplemented with email support from trained
treatment has been described as an approach that combines
structured self-help material presented via the internet with
support from a psychotherapist, who can direct therapeutic
therapeutic setting may attract patients reluctant to attend
practicability or a shortage of specialised centres.3–7Cognitive–
behavioural therapy is the treatment of choice for adults with
bulimia nervosa. Guided and un-guided self-help formats of CBT
for bulimia nervosa can be as effective as face-to-face therapy8,9in
the short and long term.10–13Bibliotherapy is the gold-standard of
disorder.14,15Studies delivering self-help by telemedicine,7,16–18CD-
Rom7,18and via internet-platforms19–21have proven to be efficient
in both a representative population of clinical patients, and a student
population with bulimia nervosa and eating disorder not otherwise
specified (EDNOS) compared with waiting-list controls.
We conducted a randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing
internet-based guided self-help (INT-GSH) with conventional
bibliotherapy (BIB-GSH) as an active control in clinical patients
with bulimia nervosa. As long-term outcome studies of self-help
formats implementing new technologies are scarce for patients
with bulimia nervosa, we also addressed long-term outcome,
using validated interviews for outcome assessments. Our primary
hypothesis was that INT-GSH would lead to a better treatment
outcome than BIB-GSH, i.e. a greater reduction in binge eating
and purging behaviour, and also to a higher abstinence rate at
the end of treatment and at long-term follow-up. Our secondary
therapy (CBT)via internet
hypothesis was that associated eating disorder-specific psycho-
pathology would more significantly decrease in the INT-GSH
group than in the conventional BIB-GSH group.
The study was carried out at the Eating Disorders Unit,
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Medical
University of Vienna, Austria, in collaboration with the eating
disorders department at the Parklandklinik, Germany (trial
registration number: NCT00461071). We obtained approval from
the ethics committee of the Medical University of Vienna. Patients
were recruited between December 2006 and June 2008 through
advertisements. Participants gave written informed consent, while
for minors, additional consent from a parent was obligatory.
First, we attempted to contact patients who had reported
interest in participating in the study. These individuals were then
assessed to see whether they met the criteria for eligibility.
Inclusion criteria were: age 16–35 years, fulfilment of the
diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa purging type according to
DSM-IV-TR,22EDNOS with binge eating or purging behaviour
between once and twice a week or for less than 3 months and a
body mass index (BMI) above 18. Exclusion criteria were acute
suicidality, severe depression or other mental disorders affecting
cognition, current drug misuse and current participation in CBT.
The INT-GSH was a CBT-based self-help programme (www.
netunion.com) provided via an internet platform (see also Carrard
et al19and Fernandez-Aranda et al20). Patients were obliged to use
Internet-delivered cognitive–behavioural therapy
v. conventional guided self-help for bulimia
nervosa: long-term evaluation of a randomised
Gudrun Wagner, Eva Penelo, Christian Wanner, Paulina Gwinner, Marie-Louise Trofaier,
Hartmut Imgart, Karin Waldherr, C ¸ic ¸ek Wo ¨ber-Bingo ¨l and Andreas F. K. Karwautz
Cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT)-based guided self-help is
recommended as a first step in the treatment of bulimia
To evaluate in a randomised controlled trial (Clinicaltrials.gov
registration number: NCT00461071) the long-term
effectiveness of internet-based guided self-help (INT-GSH)
compared with conventional guided bibliotherapy (BIB-GSH)
in females with bulimia nervosa.
A total of 155 participants were randomly assigned to
INT-GSH or BIB-GSH for 7 months. Outcomes were
assessed at baseline, month 4, month 7 and month 18.
The greatest improvement was reported after 4 months with
a continued reduction in eating disorder symptomatology
reported at month 7 and 18. After 18 months, 14.6%
(n=7/48) of the participants in the INT-GSH group and 25%
(n=7/28) in the BIB-GSH group were abstinent from binge
eating and compensatory measures, 43.8% (n=21/48) and
39.2% (n=11/28) respectively were in remission. No differences
regarding outcome between the two groups were found.
Internet-based guided self-help for bulimia nervosa was not
superior compared with bibliotherapy, the gold standard of
self-help. Improvements remain stable in the long term.
Declaration of interest
The British Journal of Psychiatry (2013)
202, 135–141. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.111.098582
it for a period of 4–7 months and were supported throughout
through weekly emails from psychologists or psychotherapists
with eating disorder experience. The aim of the email support
was to motivate patients, answer technical questions about the
computer program, or address other problems that arose. The
psychologist had access to the patients’ progress on the program.
The patient could only continue with the next step when the
previous one was completed.
The conventional guided bibliotherapy intervention used was
Getting Better Bit(e) by Bit(e),15which is a self-help manual that
is based on CBT and delivers its therapeutic content through the
course of 15 chapters. The content of the manual, structure and
email support was similar to the INT-GSH intervention but also
addresses additional topics such as drug misuse and sexuality.
The patient’s use of the book is more flexible than the INT-GSH.
In a clinical telephone interview, patients’ eligibility for the study
was assessed. Baseline assessments, and follow-up assessments at
month 4 and 7 were performed face to face in each of the
participating centres, which included structured interviews and
self-rating questionnaires. At month 18, most interviews were
conducted by telephone by independent researchers not involved
in the treatment, although eight interviews were conducted in
person at the clinic (four in each intervention group). Intensive
rater training was provided for interviewers in all centres by a
researcher experienced in eating disorder assessment (G.W.). In
cases of rater disagreement, this was discussed until there were
consistent ratings for all items. True randomisation was conducted
using the program at www.random.org for two groups.
The intervention programmes and procedures were explained
by the psychologists, and email support was provided weekly by
psychologists experienced in eating disorders. If there was no email
contact for at least 3 weeks, patients were contacted by telephone
inorder to re-motivate themto continue with the treatment. In cases
where patients did not respond or had discontinued the treatment,
they were considered to have dropped out from treatment. After
the end of treatment, patients were offered contact addresses of
psychotherapists or institutions where they could continue
psychotherapy in case of continued eating disorder symptomatology,
or, when symptom-free, they could contact in case of relapse. Efforts
were made to approach all patients at month 18.
A complete medical and psychiatric check-up was performed
by an experienced psychiatrist and family doctor masked to group
allocation,includingbloodanalysis for standard medical
evaluations and assessment of psychiatric comorbidities at
baseline and month 4.
Structured interview measures
We used the QATA (Questionnaire Anamnestique pour les
Troubles Alimentaire) to obtain sociodemographic and eating
disorder history to ascertain DSM-IV eating disorder diagnosis.19
To assess detailed information on common comorbidity we used
the Structured Interview for Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia
nervosa (SIAB-EX).23Interrater reliability ranges from 0.81 to
0.85. Convergent and discriminant validity of the SIAB-EX has
The Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI-2) is a widely used, standard-
ised, self-report measure of psychological symptoms and traits
commonly associated with eating disorders,24with excellent
validity and reliability data.25
We used the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS19) on
Windows. Primary analyses considered changes in monthly binge
eating and compensatory measures (vomiting, laxative misuse,
sports and fasting) over the previous month at baseline, month
4, 7 and 18 as assessed by the QATA interview. Secondary analyses
involved eating disorder-specific psychopathology as measured
by the EDI-2 and psychiatric comorbidity as measured by the
SIAB-EX at the same assessment points.
Linear mixed-model analyses were conducted to assess the
effectiveness of the two interventions. This involved a 2 (group:
INT-GSH and BIB-GSH)64 (time: baseline, month 4, 7 and 18)
mixed design for each of the quantitative variables (binge eating,
compensatory behaviours and EDI-2 scores). The intention-to-
treat procedure with the last-observation-carried-forward method
of imputation for missing values was applied. When necessary,
Bonferroni-adjusted post hoc analyses were conducted to value
the effect of group or time conditions. When the main effects of
time were statistically significant, orthogonal polynomial contrasts
were estimated to value the linear, quadratic and cubic trends
over phases, using as metric the distance in months between
assessments (0, 4, 7, 18).
Eating disorder symptomatology and sociodemographic
variablesat baselinewere compared
quantitative measures and chi-squared tests for dichotomous
variables. For positive outcome (abstinence or remission) we
applied a binary logistic regression, with a step-wise backward
procedure and likelihood ratio estimation. Probability for entry
and removal were 0.05 and 0.10 respectively. All hypotheses were
tested at a significance level of 5%.
Power analysis (chi-squared test, one-tailed, alpha level 5%) is
based on the reduction of purging behaviour (operationalised by
an eating disorder interview) from the beginning of therapy to
follow-up, as measured by Thiels et al.12Original power analysis
assuming equal sample sizes of n=70 in each group yielded a
power of 87.7%.
throughout the study. A comparable number of assigned patients
took up treatment in both groups (84.3% in the INT-GSH group
v. 77.8% in the BIB-GSH group) and were assessed for baseline
In both groups, more than two-thirds were assessed at month
4 (71.4% in both groups) and more than 60% were assessed at
month 7 (61.4% in the INT-GSH group v. 62.5% in the BIB-GSH
For post evaluations at month 18, we approached all patients
who have completed or dropped out of the interventions and
78.6% could be contacted in the INT-GSH group v. 57.1% in
the BIB-GSH group. Of those reachable at month 18, 68.6%
and 51.8% had completed minimum adequate treatment, defined
as programme participation for 8 weeks reaching at least module 3
in the INT-GSH intervention and finishing at least 6 chapters in
the BIB-GSH intervention. Completers and non-completers did
not differ in baseline sociodemographic and clinical characteristics,
and percentages of completers did not differ between the two
groups (w2=3.688, P=0.055).
Patient characteristics at baseline
Baseline sociodemographic and clinical characteristics did not
differ between the two treatment groups (Table 1). Both groups
Wagner et al
Internet-delivered cognitive–behavioural therapy for bulimia nervosa
Included into random assignment
Assessed for eligibility
Excluded (n=50) for
Anorexia nervosa (n=17)
EDNOS binge eating
Did not meet age criteria
No access to internet (n=12)
Allocated to INT-GSH (n=83)
Received intervention (n=70)
Did not show up to intervention start T0(n=13)
Completed T1evaluation at 4 months (n=50)
Did not complete T1evaluation at 4 months (n=20)
Completed T2evaluation at 7 months (n=43)
Did not complete T2evaluation at 7 months
(n=7, including n=1 who has finished at T1)
Completed T3evaluation at 18 months (n=55)
Did not complete T3evaluation at 18 months (n=15)
Completed 3 modules and attended
2 months of intervention (n=48)
Completed less than 3 modules or attended less than
2 months of intervention (n=22)
Allocated to BIB=GSH (n=72)
Received intervention (n=56)
Did not show up to intervention start T0(n=16)
Completed T1evaluation at 4 months (n=40)
Did not complete T1evaluation at 4 months (n=16)
Completed T2evaluation at 7 months (n=35)
Did not complete T2evaluation at 7 months
(n=5, including n=3 who have finished at T1)
Completed T3evaluation at 18 months (n=32)
Did not complete T3evaluation at 18 months (n=24)
Completed 6 chapters of bibliotherapy and attanded
2 months of intervention (n=29)
Completed less than 6 chapters or attended less than
2 months of intervention (n=27)
Flow diagram of participants through the phases of randomisation, allocation and follow-up.
EDNOS, eating disorders not otherwise specified; INT-GSH, internet-based guided self-help; BIB-GSH, guided bibliotherapy.
controlled trial of internet-based guided self-help (INT-GSH) and guided bibliotherapy (BIB-GSH)
Comparison of baseline demographic and clinical characteristics of patients with bulimia nervosa in a randomised
Demographic and clinical characteristics
Quantitative measures, mean (s.d.)
Age at onset of the eating disorder
Eating disorder duration, years
Body mass index, kg/m2
Objective binge eating episodes in the previous month
Vomiting episodes in the previous month
Episodes of laxative misuse in the previous month
Episodes of excessive sports in the previous month
Episodes of fastening in the previous month
Dichotomous measures,an (%)
Anorexia nervosa history before bulimia nervosa
Previous formal psychotherapeutic and in-patient treatments
a. Missing data for this variable: INT-GSH group, n=69; BIB-GSH group, n=52.
Wagner et al
had long eating disorder histories, a third had a diagnosis of
previous anorexia nervosa, and about two-thirds had engaged in
previous psychotherapy. Eating disorder diagnosis was bulimia
nervosa in 90% of the study population and 10% had EDNOS.
The importance of email contact was rated by the patients
from 0 (not helpful at all) to 6 (very helpful). For the INT-GSH
and BIB-GSH group, 54% and 43% rated email contact as very
helpful, 43% and 51% as helpful, and 3% and 5% as rather not
or not at all helpful respectively.
Table 2 shows the evolution of binge eating episodes and
compensatory behaviours per month for each treatment arm.
No interaction effects (group time) or main effect for group were
found, and therefore, the main effect for time was evaluated. A
significant reduction between baseline and month 18 could be
shown for all measures. Significant changes for binge eating,
vomiting and fasting also occurred during the first 4 months of
therapy, following a negative linear trend plus a positive quadratic
trend (sharper decrease in earlier phases and then flattens out),
whereas for laxative misuse and excessive sports only the negative
linear trend was statistically significant over time. In addition,
lower scores for binge eating, vomiting and excessive sport were
observed at month 18 compared with at month 7. Making
adjustments for our final sample size of n=70 and n=56 in the
two treatment groups, we can expect a power of 84.0%.
We calculated the proportion of patients who were abstinent
from binge eating and compensatory behaviours after treatment
taking into account the previous 4 weeks at month 7 and the
previous 3 months at 18-month follow-up and assessed remission
rates defined by not fulfilling DSM-IV criteria for bulimia nervosa
(Table 3). Remission was defined as being below the DSM-IV
threshold (i.e. binge eating and compensatory behaviours less than
twice a week over the previous 4 weeks or 3 months respectively).
There were no differences in abstinence and remission rates
between the two groups.
A subgroup of patients continued with formal psychotherapy after
the end of treatment (Table 3). Mean duration of post-treatment
individual psychotherapy was 11.39 months (s.d.=7.81) in the
INT-GSH group and 7.57 (s.d.=5.16) in the BIB-GSH group. The
subgroup of patients that continued with further psychotherapy
had a significantly higher number of weekly episodes of binge eating
behaviour (mean 9.15, s.d.=13.03) than those not continuing with
psychotherapy (mean 2.19, s.d.=2.80) (t=2.428, P=0.024).
Binge eating and vomiting could be reduced to a greater extent
in the group who continued with psychotherapy after month 7
compared with the group who did not (F(1,62)=6.796, P=0.011
and F(1,62)=6.104, P=0.016 respectively). Weekly binge eating
could be reduced to a mean frequency of 4.14 (s.d.=6.34) and
weekly vomiting to a mean of 5.06 (s.d.=9.07). In the group that
did not take up psychotherapy after month 7, weekly binge eating
and vomiting behaviour did not change.
For all EDI-2 scale scores, no interaction effect (group time) or
main effect for group were found and only the main effect of time
was statistically significant (online Table DS1). Scores at baseline
were higher than at the three follow-up points, indicating that
all EDI-2 scores decreased over time. However, this issue was more
pronounced at earlier than later stages (negative linear trend plus
positive quadratic trend).
Change in binge eating and compensatory behaviours over time regarding internet-based guided self-help (INT-GSH, n = 70) and guided bibliotherapy (BIB-GSH; n = 52), after
Episodes during the
ANOVA, F (P)
Polynomial trends (time), F (P)b
Objective binge eating
T0>T1, T2, T3
a. Results in bold are significant at 0.05 level.
b. Metric for polynomial contrasts taking into account the different interval between phases (0, 4, 7, 18).
c. Multiple comparison with Bonferroni’s correction.
Internet-delivered cognitive–behavioural therapy for bulimia nervosa
Binary regression analysis predicting positive outcome at
month 18 (0: abstinence of binge–purging behaviour or in
remission; 1: remaining full DSM-IV criteria) revealed a
statistically significant association of binge eating frequency and
the EDI-2 scale ‘drive for thinness’. Lower frequency of binge
eating (odds ratio (OR)=1.07, 95% CI 1.02–1.11, P50.001)
and higher scores of ‘drive for thinness’ (OR=0.92, 95% CI
0.83–1.01, P=0.065) at baseline were related to a positive
outcome at month 18 (criterion coded as 0). No association
with outcome was found for all other putative predictors.
Goodness-of-fit of the model was satisfactory (Negelkerke’s
R=0.40, Hosmer-Lemeshow’s test P=0.864).
In this RCT, we compared the long-term outcome of INT-GSH
and BIB-GSH in severely ill female patients with bulimia nervosa.
The main hypothesis, that INT-GSH would be superior to
BIB-GSH, was not confirmed. Intention-to-treat analysis found
no superior effect for INT-GSH concerning primary and
secondary outcome measures at the end of therapy and at long-
term 18-month follow-up. Frequency of binge eating, vomiting
and fasting could be significantly reduced by both treatments,
with the greatest improvements within the first 4 months, which
could be further increased by continued treatment to month 7
and stabilised at 18-month follow-up.
Loss of potential participants
We lost contact with 47 (20%) females who initially reported
interest in taking part in the study and 13 who did not show up
at the start of the intervention in the INT-GSH group and 16 in
the BIB-GSH group. That substantial numbers of potential
participants for internet-based therapy studies are lost prior to
the start of treatment has been discussed previously,27but there
are few data on why this is the case. Waller & Gilbody have
speculated that there are additional costs for hardware and
internet access, and people with the lowest level of education will
often be excluded.27Reasons why patients did not take up an
intervention via CD-ROM for bulimia nervosa have been
explored,28but no differences in views of using self-help,
computer literacy, and knowledge about bulimia nervosa
compared with participants starting the intervention were found.
However, differences were found regarding confidence in the
usefulness of self-help, and those who did not start considered that
a CD-ROM was inferior to face-to-face interventions. This may
also be a consideration for not taking up bibliotherapy. However,
in our trial face-to-face therapy was not offered as an alternative.
In our study, in order to participate and receive free treatment,
patients had to (a) see a family doctor, who referred them to our
clinic and (b) get blood tests as part of our medical assessment. As
bulimia nervosa is known as a psychiatric illness with possible
shameful connotations, and often kept secret from parents, for
potential participants who were co-insured with their parents it
might be difficult to officially declare their illness. It is possible
that this high level of prerequisite might have impeded some
patients from the next step.
Drop-out rates during the first 4 months of 28.6% in both groups
are comparable with other studies using INT-GSH. A drop-out
rate of 25.2% was reported in an international multisite study.17,19
In general, a high variability of drop-out rates in studies using self-
help treatments for eating disorders is known, ranging from 0 to
62%.29High drop-out rates are common in patients with eating
disorders, even in face-to-face therapy.30
Remission and abstinence rates
In both treatment arms we found a comparable number of
patients who were in remission from eating disorder symptoms
at the end of treatment (46.5% in the INT-GSH group v. 48.6%
in the BIB-GSH group) and abstinence rates of 18.6% v. 18.9%
respectively. These rates are comparable with a study of a student
population with bulimia nervosa and EDNOS with less severe
symptoms at the beginning of treatment: the abstinence rate was
25.8% after an internet-based and email-supported CBT self-help
programme21and 52.2% no longer met diagnostic criteria for an
eating disorder. Other studies using INT-GSH reported abstinence
rates of 22.6 to 23%.19,20In the long-term 18-month follow-up,
our study revealed that these rates are stable and further improve-
ments can be achieved. This is important as many treatments
show short-term effects but no longer-term effects.
It has to be noted that 13 participants diagnosed as having
EDNOS started the self-help programme. At month 18, three of
them were abstinent from bulimic behaviour, five continued to
not fulfil DSM-IV diagnoses for bulimia nervosa and one had
developed full bulimia nervosa.
Establishing the role of formal psychotherapy after completion of
self-help treatment cannot be neglected in the follow-up
evaluation because (a) we wanted to assess real-life situations
v. guided bibliotherapy (BIB-GSH)
Abstinence and remission rates at the end of treatment and at follow-up for internet-based guided self-help (INT-GSH)
Outcomes INT-GSH groupBIB-GSH group
Outcome at month 7
Abstinence from binge eating and compensatory behavioursa
Remission of bulimia nervosab
Abstinence or remission
Outcome at month 18
Abstinence from binge eating and compensatory behaviours
Remission of bulimia nervosab
Abstinence or remission
Continuation with formal psychotherapy after month 7
27.6 (8/29) 1.7270.189
a. In the time period of the preceding month.
b. Remission is defined as not fulfilling DSM-IV criteria for bulimia nervosa.
Wagner et al
and (b) some patients were motivated to undertake more
treatment, which is important and welcome.
More than 40% in the INT-GSH group and more than a
quarter in the BIB-GSH group had formal psychotherapy after
completing the intervention at month 7; we can therefore assume
that the improvements seen at 18-month follow-up are in part the
result of this continuation of treatment. Moreover, our findings
show that those who continued with psychotherapy reduced their
bulimic symptomatology to a greater extent compared with those
who did not continue with psychotherapy.
Outcome rates are consistent with the results of prospective
long-term outcome studies of bulimia nervosa that showed that at
2-year follow-up, 53.1% of in-patients with bulimia nervosa were
classified as either not having a DSM-IVeating disorder or as having
fully recovered.31,32Long-term outcome studies over 25 years reveal
that 45% show full recovery from bulimia nervosa, 27% improve
considerably and for 23% the condition has a chronic course.33
We found that lower binge-eating frequency and higher drive
for thinness at baseline were predictors for a positive long-term
outcome. These findings can be interpreted as suggesting that
guided self-help, either provided via the internet or bibliotherapy,
is more suitable for patients with less severe symptomatology.
However, a higher drive for thinness is also associated with
positive outcome. Whereas in anorexia nervosa a drive for
thinness has been associated with poor prognosis,34our results
suggest the contrary. It might be the case that a higher drive for
thinness is a motivational factor for giving up binge eating.
In existing national health services, a period of waiting for
appropriate eating disorder treatment is common and the
availability of CBT is limited. Previous work suggests that waiting
for treatment leads to poorer treatment engagement and less
improvements.18,21Self-help programmes – either internet-based
or bibliotherapy combined with email support – seem to be
suitable methods for overcoming the limitations in conventional
mental healthcare and facilitate immediate treatment uptake.
Our study showed that some patients, who have not recovered
after the self-help treatment, have continued with face-to-face
therapy. We might conclude, that for those patients for whom
these treatments were not sufficient, the self-help programmes
may lead to treatment continuation and the motivation to change
is not lost.
Considering that a large number of patients involved in
our study has received psychotherapy before self-help treatment,
our results extend the application of conventional and new
technology-assisted self-help formats for patients in the course
of treatment, suggesting that guided self-help might not only be
used as a first step for bulimia nervosa (as recommended by a
stepped-care approach), but also as an equivalent component in
the longer treatment course. It might be sufficient for a certain
percentage of patients to reach a positive outcome, or for some
patients to serve as a step to continued treatment that in the long
run leads to the desired remission.
New technology should not automatically be seen as a
replacement but rather as a supplement to existing treatment
protocols. Given the lack of trained CBT practitioners and of
specialised centres for eating disorders in rural areas in the USA
and European Union, low uptake of evidence-based treatments
and high cost-effectiveness of self-help formats,7,16,35it would be
inappropriate not to use internet-based treatment at least as a
complement to other treatments.1
Evidence on cost-effectiveness is still limited in eating
disorders, but interventions involving CBT have been promising.36
Several studies have shown that guided self-help treatments are as
effective as traditional face-to-face psychotherapy,37however, the
former have been found to be more cost-effective.7,16To assess
the exact savings that using self-help formats rather than
psychotherapy would make, a different research design, the
inclusion of face-to-face therapy and direct and indirect costs
involved in the long-term would all have to be considered.
The clinical implication of our findings is that guided self-help
– regardless of whether it is provided via the internet or
conventional bibliotherapy – can be delivered in non-specialist
settings and leads to favourable outcomes in the long term, either
by immediate response through guided self-help or a delayed
response mediated through psychotherapy after guided self-help.
Regarding our finding that more than two-thirds of patients had
experienced previous psychotherapy, we might even suggest that
guided self-help in either form could be recommended not only
as a first step in treatment uptake, but also within different stages
of illness.38For patients who had relapsed after previous psycho-
therapy, it is important to reuptake treatment in the form of either
internet-delivered CBT or conventional guided self-help in order
to overcome the disorder.
Strengths of the study
This is an RCT of young females with bulimia nervosa assessing
longitudinal outcome over an extended period of time that
conventional bibliotherapy. Patients with high binge–purging
frequency and longer eating disorder histories that have
experienced previous psychotherapy and in-patient treatment
were included, mimicking real-life situations of patients with
bulimia nervosa seeking treatment. Email support was provided
continuously and regularly and was viewed as helpful by most
Limitations and future studies
One major limitation is the absence of a waiting list control group.
However, as guided self-help is considered to be the gold standard
in self-help treatment of bulimia nervosa and its efficacy and long-
term efficiency has been proven in a sufficient number of RCTs, its
superiority over results in an untreated control group does not
seem to need further confirmation. Patients were recruited from
different sources and represent a self-selected group of patients
highly motivated for self-help therapy. Nevertheless, it mimics
real-life mental health and psychotherapeutic care where patients
mainly approach those institutions that they think can help
them. Although there were no differences in the percentage of
completers (P=0.055), this might be due to the moderate sample
We made great effort to approach all participants who started
the trial for long-term follow-up evaluation; however, we were
unable to contact 31.4% of the INT-SHG group and 48.2% of
the BIB-SHG group and do not have information about the
outcome for these individuals. However, patients who participated
at month 18 and those who dropped out from the evaluation did
not differ in baseline sociodemographic and clinical characteristics
and the intention-to-treat analysis accounts for these missing
Further analyses determining predictors of drop-out and good
outcome are necessary, including psychiatric comorbidity, family
interaction, quality of life, compulsivity and problems with
intimacy.4Analyses of subgroups of adolescents are necessary in
order to know whether this type of treatment is also applicable
for younger patients with bulimia nervosa.
Internet-delivered cognitive–behavioural therapy for bulimia nervosa Download full-text
This study was supported in part by a grant from the Jubilaeumsfonds of the Austrian
National Bank (AP11957ONB).
We thank Tony Lam and Netunion, Switzerland, who provided free access to SALUT-BN for
independent evaluation of the programme. The authors thank Professor Dr Christian Wo ¨ber
and Mag Juanjo Santamaria for their helpful comments on the manuscript, Mag Marion
Spitzer, Mag Johanna Dolleschka, Anna Mayerhofer, Gerald Nobis, Claudia Bittner, Dr
Orsolya Gal and Dr Martina Dieplinger for providing email support, data gathering and
entry, and Professor Dr James Cooper, Pennsylvania State University, USA, for proofreading
Gudrun Wagner, Msc, Eating Disorders Unit, Department of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, Medical University of Vienna, Austria; Eva Penelo, PhD, Laboratori
d’Estadı ´stica Aplicada, Departament de Psicobiologia i Metodologia de les Cie `ncies
de la Salut, Universitat Auto `noma de Barcelona, Spain; Christian Wanner, MD;
Paulina Gwinner, MD; Marie-Louise Trofaier, MD, Eating Disorders Unit,
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Medical University of Vienna, Austria;
Hartmut Imgart, MD, Eating Disorders Unit, Parklandklinik, Bad Wildungen,
Germany; Karin Waldherr, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Health Promotion Research,
Vienna, Austria; C ¸ic ¸ek Wo ¨ber-Bingo ¨l, MD, Andreas F. K. Karwautz, MD, Eating
Disorders Unit, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Medical University
of Vienna, Austria
Correspondence: Andreas F. K. Karwautz, Eating Disorders Unit at Department
of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Medical University of Vienna, Waehringer
Guertel 18-20; A-1090 Vienna, Austria. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
First received 27 Jun 2012, final revision 12 Oct 2012, accepted 24 Oct 2012
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