Psyche and adiposity

Professorship for behavioral medicine at the IFB AdiposityDiseases was awarded to Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Anja Hilbert

Different psychosocial strains can contribute to eating problems such as uncontrolled binge eating and eventually even cause adiposity. Eating attacks such as the so-called binge eating disorder and their treatment are focal points of the research of Anja Hilbert's (44) who came to the University of Leipzig in September 2011 to assume her position as professor for behavioral medicine/ nutrition psychology at the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases.

"I'm especially excited about the cooperation with other disciplines such as internal medicine, surgery or neuro sciences at the IFB. This interdisciplinary approach enriches the research. Until now I have worked predominantely with specialists from psychotherapy and psychiatry," says Prof. Hilbert. She brings in a lot of experience in the fields of research, teaching and therapy from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), the Philipps University of Marburg and her work abroad. The Celle-born worked in the Weight Management Center of the Washington University in St. Louis (USA) from 2003-2004 and was head of a junior research group for the topic of adiposity in Marburg from 2005 till 2009. As an associated professor for clinical psychology and psychotherapy she was head of the academy for behavioral therapy in childhood and adolescence and the guidance and therapy center of the institute for family research and counceling in Fribourg from early 2010 until august of 2011.

Hilbert describes her new task like this: "The anamnesis of people with eating attacks often includes psychosocial risk factors such as neglect, excessive strains, abuse or a disturbed eating behavior such as constant over eating in the family. In Leipzig we would like to find out wether the so-called cognitive behavioral therapy could help adult or adolescent patients with binge eating disorder to better regulate their eating behavior and their emotions and by that also normalize their body weight."

Prof. Michael Stumvoll, scientific head of the center emphasizes: "Having won a therapist with so much experience and a scientist of international reputation in the field of eating disorders such as professor is a real coup for the IFB." He further elaborates that "psychical disorders play a significant role in the development of morbid overweight. With this fourth professorship for the IFB we managed to fix behavioral medical projects in a better way. Also professor Hilbert is involved in the patient treatment as the responsible psychologist at the IFB Adiposity Outpatient Clinic."

The IFB maintains several research projects in the psychological-psychiatric field at the university medicine Leipzig that will offer more possibilities for cooperation in the future. The medical psychology and medical sociology with Prof. Elmar Brähler is involved in different projects and has also guaranteed the implementation of this IFB research professorship. In addition to the project of Prof. Hilbert, Prof. Annette Kersting from the clinic for psychosomatic medicine deals with eating disorders. It offers an internet-based therapy for affected patients. The team of Prof. Kai von Klitzing, head of the clinic for psychiatry, psychotherapy and psychosomatics for children and juveniles is researching the correlations of parental behavior and the development of overweight in toddlers. The interdependency of sleep-wake-rhythm, depression and the development of overweight is investigated by Prof. Hubertus Himmerich and his co-workers for the IFB at the clinic for psychiatry and psychotherapy. Prof. Steffi Riedel-Heller from the institute for social medicine researches the question of how the stigma of adipose people in society and in health-care professions in particular is created. The stigmatization of morbidly overweight people has extensive consequences and also plays a role in the development of eating disorders, "because experiences with weight related discrimmination will lead to an increased suffering, a negative body and self image, eating problems and depressive symptoms especially in children," says Hilbert.

She studied psychology at the Universities in Freiburg i. Br., Marburg and Nancy (France), she made her doctorate and qualified as a professor at the Philipps University of Marburg. Hilbert published her scientific work repeatedly in German and English medical journals. The new Leipzig citizen likes to relax while listening to jazz, working in the garden and if time allows for it while sailing.

Doris Gabel


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Anja Hilbert
Phone:+49 (0)341 / 97-15360
E-Mail:anja [dot] hilbert [at] medizin [dot] uni-leipzig [dot] de

Keywords: IFB-research, eating disorders, psyche