Objective: Depressive symptoms are an important risk factor and consequence of binge eating and purging behavior in bulimia nervosa (BN). Although psychotherapy is effective in reducing symptoms of BN in the short- and long-term, it is unclear whether psychotherapy for BN is also effective in reducing depressive symptoms. This meta-analysis examined the efficacy of psychotherapy for BN on depressive symptoms in the short- and long-term. Method: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on BN that assessed depressive symptoms as an outcome were identified. Twenty-six RCTs were included. Results: Psychotherapy was more efficacious at reducing symptoms of depression at post-treatment (g = 0.47) than wait-lists. This effect was strongest when studies delivered therapist-led, rather than guided self-help, treatment. No significant differences were observed between psychotherapy and antidepressants. There was no significant post-treatment difference between CBT and other active psychological comparisons at reducing symptoms of depression. However, when only therapist-led CBT was analyzed, therapist-led CBT was significantly more efficacious (g = 0.25) than active comparisons at reducing depressive symptoms. The magnitude of the improvement in depressive symptoms was predicted by the magnitude of the improvement in BN symptoms. Discussion: These findings suggest that psychotherapy is effective for reducing depressive symptoms in BN in the short-term. Whether these effects are sustained in the long-term is yet to be determined, as too few studies conducted follow-up assessments. Moreover, findings demonstrate that, in addition to being the front-running treatment for BN symptoms, CBT might also be the most effective psychotherapy for improving the symptoms of depression that commonly co-occur in BN.
- bulimia nervosa
- cognitive-behavioral therapy