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While negative affect reliably predicts binge eating, it is unknown how this association may decrease or ‘de-couple’ during treatment for binge eating disorder (BED), whether such change is greater in treatments targeting emotion regulation, or how such change predicts outcome. This study utilized multi-wave ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to assess changes in the momentary association between negative affect and subsequent binge-eating symptoms during Integrative Cognitive Affective Therapy (ICAT-BED) and Cognitive Behavior Therapy Guided Self-Help (CBTgsh). It was predicted that there would be stronger de-coupling effects in ICAT-BED compared to CBTgsh given the focus on emotion regulation skills in ICAT-BED and that greater de-coupling would predict outcomes.
Adults with BED were randomized to ICAT-BED or CBTgsh and completed 1-week EMA protocols and the Eating Disorder Examination (EDE) at pre-treatment, end-of-treatment, and 6-month follow-up (final N = 78). De-coupling was operationalized as a change in momentary associations between negative affect and binge-eating symptoms from pre-treatment to end-of-treatment.
There was a significant de-coupling effect at follow-up but not end-of-treatment, and de-coupling did not differ between ICAT-BED and CBTgsh. Less de-coupling was associated with higher end-of-treatment EDE global scores at end-of-treatment and higher binge frequency at follow-up.
Both ICAT-BED and CBTgsh were associated with de-coupling of momentary negative affect and binge-eating symptoms, which in turn relate to cognitive and behavioral treatment outcomes. Future research is warranted to identify differential mechanisms of change across ICAT-BED and CBTgsh. Results also highlight the importance of developing momentary interventions to more effectively de-couple negative affect and binge eating.