The CD ROM Will See You Now

With campus counseling centers reeling under the burden of one-on-one treatment for ever more students with ever more serious psychological problems, a new interactive CD might be just what the doctor ordered. A clinical trial of the program, called Food, Mood and Attitude, demonstrates that it can help prevent eating disorders among college women.

In tests on 240 freshman, those who engaged with the two-hour program had decreased shape and weight concerns and a lower frequency of overeating, excessive exercise and purging behaviors three months later, compared with a control group.

Drawing on the power of social influence in the development of bulimia, the multimedia program, developed by Newton, Massachusetts-based Inflexxion Inc., puts users in the position of peer counselors to a simulated student whose eating issues mirror their own. Says Sarah Lord, Ph.D., Inflexxion’s director of college health programs. “During freshman year, women who have roommate with bulimia are four times more likely to develop bulimia than those whose roommate does not have disordered eating. We decided to harness the power of such social influence in a positive way, by using peer stories and the user as a resident advisor.”

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Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri, who tested the program, finds it is “likely to have a wide applicability on university campuses. Estimates vary, but eating disorders are said to afflict up to 5 percent of college-age women. As many as 40 percent of students engage in disordered eating and are deemed at risk of the disorder during their college years.

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