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Transdiagnostic Cognitive Behavioral Model Of Eating Disorders (Fairburn, Cooper, Shafran, 2003)

Fairburn, Cooper & Shafran (2003) argue that eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia share common maintenance mechanisms despite differences in the way individuals with these disorders present.

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  • English (GB)
  • English (US)

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Introduction & Theoretical Background

Noting common processes underpinning the maintenance of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and other related conditions, Fairburn, Cooper & Shafran (2003) proposed a transdiagnostic cognitive behavioural model of eating disorders. They identify a dysfunctional system for evaluating self-worth as central to the model: individuals with eating disorders evaluate themselves according to a relatively narrow range of domains including their eating habits, shape and weight, and their ability to control them. In addition to this core dysfunction they identify four additional mechanisms which, in some cases, act to maintain an individual’s difficulties. These additional maintenance processes include:
  • Clinical perfectionism
  • Core low self-esteem (persistent and pervasive negative self-beliefs that are viewed as part of the individual’s self-identity)
  • Mood intolerance (difficulty coping with strong mood states)
  • Interpersonal difficulties
One interesting characteristic of the model is that “The patient’s specific eating disorder diagnosis is not of relevance to the treatment. Rather, its content is dictated by the particular psychological features present and the processes that appear to be maintaining them”.

Therapist Guidance

This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include:
  • Client handout – use as a psychoeducation resource
  • Discussion point – use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool – improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Teaching resource – use as a learning tool during training

References And Further Reading

  • Fairburn, C. G., Cooper, Z., Shafran, R. (2003). Cognitive behaviour therapy for eating disorders: a “transdiagnostic” theory and treatment. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 41, 509-528.