Last updated on October 2018

Online Imaginal Exposure


Brief description of study

This study evaluates if imaginal exposure therapy can decrease symptoms of eating disorders and anxiety, and test an online format of IE to maximize its ability to reach as many individuals with eating disorders as possible. All participants will complete four imaginal exposure sessions and will complete questionnaires prior to receiving this treatment, as well as complete follow up questionnaires at 1-month, 6-month, and 12-month.

Detailed Study Description

Eating disorders (EDs) are tenacious mental disorders that are difficult to treat. EDs are often accompanied by anxiety disorders, which exacerbate the problem. Better ED treatments are imperative, and it is likely that targeting comorbid conditions, such as anxiety, will facilitate ED treatments.

Imaginal exposure is used in anxiety disorders to face fears that are not accessible or practical to address via in-vivo exposures. For example, a patient with PTSD cannot re-experience her trauma in real life, but she can imagine the past trauma and experience the subsequent anxiety. For patients with AN, catastrophic outcomes such as abandonment or immediate fatness are similarly impossible to recreate as in-vivo exposures. Patients cannot become fat solely for the purpose of the exposure, but they can imagine what it would be like to become fat. The investigators are unaware of any literature using imaginal exposure therapy to induce fears of fatness and conducted a case study to test whether imaginal exposure could, firstly, induce fears of fatness and then promote reduction in anxiety and eating disorder symptoms. In this case study, the investigators found that imaginal exposure therapy was effective at reducing anxiety and eating disorder behaviors. Imaginal exposure therapy (IE) has been shown to be an extremely effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. IE has also been shown to be effective for the treatment of eating disorders using case studies. However, IE has not been systematically applied to the eating disorders. The purpose of this study is to test if 1) imaginal exposure therapy can decrease symptoms of eating disorders and anxiety, and 2) test an online format of IE to maximize its ability to reach as many individuals with eating disorders as possible.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03712748

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Recruitment Status: Open


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