Virtual Reality as a Promising Strategy in the Assessment and Treatment of Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder: A Systematic Review

Behav Sci (Basel). 2017 Jul 9;7(3):43. doi: 10.3390/bs7030043.


Several lines of evidence suggest that Virtual Reality (VR) has a potential utility in eating disorders. The objective of this study is to review the literature on the use of VR in bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED). Using PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) statement for reporting systematic reviews, we performed a PubMed, Web of Knowledge and SCOPUS search to identify studies employing VR in the assessment and treatment of BN and BED. The following search terms were used: "virtual reality", "eating disorders", "binge eating", and "bulimia nervosa". From the 420 articles identified, 19 were selected, nine investigated VR in assessment and 10 were treatment studies (one case-report, two non-controlled and six randomized controlled trials). The studies using VR in BN and BED are at an early stage. However, considering the available evidence, the use of VR in the assessment of those conditions showed some promise in identifying: (1) how those patients experienced their body image; and (2) environments or specific kinds of foods that may trigger binge-purging cycle. Some studies using VR-based environments associated to cognitive behavioral techniques showed their potential utility in improving motivation for change, self-esteem, body image disturbances and in reducing binge eating and purging behavior.

Keywords: binge eating disorder; binge–purging eating disorders; bulimia nervosa; systematic review; virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Review