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Compr Psychiatry. 2017 Apr;74:61-69. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2017.01.001. Epub 2017 Jan 7.

Does psychological well-being change following treatment? An exploratory study on outpatients with eating disorders.

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Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
Eating Disorder Clinic "Centro Gruber", Bologna, Italy.


Psychological well-being changes following cognitive-behavioral therapy-based treatment were investigated in outpatients with eating disorders (ED). While it is known that CBT reduces symptomatology in EDs, less is known about how changes in positive functioning may ensue. One-hundred and eighty five ED outpatients were analyzed for pre-treatment and post-treatment changes in psychological well-being (PWB) by last observation carried forward - Wilcoxon signed rank tests. Significant gains in all PWB dimensions were found, with moderate effect size correlations in environmental mastery (r=-.418), personal growth (r=-.351) and self-acceptance (r=-.341). A subsample of patients in remission (n=51) was selected and compared to healthy controls in PWB post-treatment scores through Mann-Whitney U tests. Remitted patients showed significantly lower psychological well-being in two dimensions compared to controls: PWB-positive relations (r=-.360) and PWB-self-acceptance (r=-.288). However, more than 50% of ED outpatients in remission had PWB scores that fell below the 50th percentile of healthy controls in all psychological well-being dimensions, despite significant treatment response. Several mechanisms of psychological well-being change following CBT-based treatment are discussed. The assessment of treatment outcome in EDs may benefit from considering changes in positive functioning such as psychological well-being, in addition to the standard measurement of BMI, symptomatology and behavioral parameters. CBT-based treatment outcomes may be strengthened by promoting the development of optimal domains particularly in the interpersonal realm, such as building of quality and warm relationships and focusing on enhancing self-acceptance.

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