An open trial of app-assisted acceptance and commitment therapy (iACT) for eating disorders in type 1 diabetes.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND: Eating disorders (EDs) among individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D) increase the risk of early and severe diabetes-related medical complications and premature death. Conventional eating disorder (ED) treatments have been largely ineffective for T1D patients, indicating the need to tailor treatments to this patient population and the unique conditions under which ED symptoms emerge (in the context of a chronic illness with unrelenting demands to control blood glucose, diet and exercise). The current study was a pilot open trial of iACT, a novel intervention for EDs in T1D grounded in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). iACT was based on the premise that ED symptoms emerge as individuals attempt to cope with T1D and related emotional distress. iACT taught acceptance and mindfulness as an alternative to maladaptive avoidance and control, and leveraged personal values to increase willingness to engage in T1D management, even when it was upsetting (e.g., after overeating). A tailored mobile application ("app") was used in between sessions to facilitate the application of ACT skills in the moment that individuals are making decisions about their diabetes management. METHODS: Adults with T1D who met criteria for an ED completed 12 sessions of iACT (with three optional tapering sessions). In addition to examining whether treatment was acceptable and feasible (the primary aim of the study), the study also examined whether iACT was associated with increased psychological flexibility (i.e., the ability to have distressing thoughts/feelings about diabetes while pursuing personally meaningful values), and improvements in ED symptoms, diabetes management and diabetes distress. RESULTS: Treatment was acceptable to T1D patients with EDs and feasible to implement. Participants reported increased psychological flexibility with diabetes-related thoughts/feelings, and less obstruction and greater progress in pursuing personal values. There were large effects for change in ED symptoms, diabetes self-management and diabetes distress from baseline to end-of-treatment (Cohen's d = .90-1.79). Hemoglobin A1c also improved, but the p-value did not reach statistical significance, p = .08. CONCLUSIONS: Findings provide preliminary evidence for iACT to improve outcomes for T1D patients with EDs and support further evaluation of this approach in a controlled trial. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT02980627 . Registered 8 July 2016.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Merwin, RM; Moskovich, AA; Babyak, M; Feinglos, M; Honeycutt, LK; Mooney, J; Freeman, SP; Batchelder, H; Sangvai, D

Published Date

  • January 6, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 9 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 6 -

PubMed ID

  • 33407910

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7789378

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2050-2974

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1186/s40337-020-00357-6


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England