Deficits in emotion regulation (ER) have been shown to be associated with binge-eating disorder (BED). To further clarify the causal nature of this association, we tested whether systematically enhancing ER skills would reduce symptoms of BED.
We randomly allocated N = 101 individuals meeting the criteria for BED to a transdiagnostic ER skills training or to a waitlist control condition (WLC). Primary outcome was the reduction in binges during the treatment-vs.-waiting period as assessed with the Eating Disorder Examination (EDE) interview.
Mixed-model ANOVAs indicated that the average pre-to-post decrease in binges assessed with the EDE was significantly greater in the ER skills training condition than in the WLC (d = 0.66). These effects were stable over the 6-month follow-up period (d = 0.72). Remission rates at post/follow-up were 34.4/45.0% in the skills training and 7.5/20.0% in the WLC. Additionally, we found a greater reduction in general eating disorder psychopathology, of food consumption in a bogus taste test and of depression in the ER skills training condition. Moreover, the greater reduction in binge-eating episodes in the training condition was (partially) mediated by a greater increase in ER skills.
The findings provide further support for the assumed importance of deficits in ER as a maintaining factor and, hence, as a target in the treatment of BED. As ER skills trainings have been shown to also reduce other kinds of psychopathology, they might be considered a promising transdiagnostic add-on component to disorder-specific interventions.