TakeControl: The smartphone app that alerts users when they are at risk of binge eating

The condition is believed to be twice as common as bulimia nervosa

A smartphone app which aims to strike at the same moment that binge eating urges occur has been developed as part of two new treatments designed to help those suffering from the disorder.

Developed by scientists at Drexel University, the TakeControl app will track users’ individual patterns of consumption and binge eating behaviour, alerting them at times when they may be susceptible to overeating.

Alongside this, small-group behavioural therapy techniques are also being created to equip patients with the psychological tools to help them benefit from the standard treatment received by those who binge eat.

These developments arise as it is revealed that even the most scientifically supported treatment – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – leads to remission for only between 50-60 per cent of those who complete a full course.

Binge eating has only recently been identified as an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is already suspected to affect more than twice the number of people as bulimia nervosa.

However, it has been noted by scientists that those who suffer from binge eating are often left feeling ashamed and isolated, as they are not aware of the amount of people affected by it and sometimes don’t even recognise it as an official condition.

The app aims to break the cycle of binge eating by becoming familiar with the individual’s habits and triggers and warning them when the risk is high.

Acting in a similar way to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the app will allow patients to record factors such as their multiple mood states, binge eating activity and urges, and whether or not they have eaten regular meals and taken required medication. 

In contrast, the new in-person treatment programme is designed to help sufferers deal with the discomforts of traditional therapies by giving them psychological strategies to combat the disorder.

Dr Evan Forman, an associate professor of psychology in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, said: “Different people find it [CBT] uncomfortable for different reasons.”

“For example, if someone had binged the night before and thought, ‘There’s no way I’m eating breakfast after that,’ the ACT skills are designed to help the person recognise this feeling of being repulsed by food, and proceed to eat breakfast anyway because consistently eating regular meals is healthier in the long run.”

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