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Can Psychotherapy Decrease Severe Obesity?

Severe obesity has become a major health problem, but current treatment strategies are unsatisfactory. A group of investigators of German universities addressed this issue in a controlled study reported in the November issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

The objective of this study was to compare the effectiveness of psychodynamic and behavioral inpatient treatments of severely obese patients regarding weight and distress. In a longitudinal study obese patients (body mass index, BMI 35) were randomly assigned to behavioral or to psychodynamic inpatient treatment.

Mostly female (n = 267; 85%) obese patients with psychiatric and somatic comorbidity (age 20-64 years, BMI 35-74) were examined with standardized self-report scales on distress (SCL-90R), interpersonal problems (Inventory of Interpersonal Problems), eating behavior (Fragebogen zum Essverhalten) and body image (Fragebogen zum Körperbild).

During 49 days (mean) of inpatient treatment, patients lost an average of 5.6 kg (4.4%) in the behavioral (n = 130) and 5.7 kg (4.4%) in the psychodynamic setting (n = 137). In both settings, eating behavior, well-being and body image also improved significantly. One year after discharge, return rate was 73%. Forty percent had further reduced their weight (by more than 5% compared to intake), 36% had regained weight, but were still below intake level, and another 24% had increased weight above intake. Behavioral and psychodynamic treatments were equally effective reducing weight and distress over 1 year.

Jörg Wiltink | alfa
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