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Christopher Fairburn

DM, FMedSci, FRCPsych.

Wellcome Principal Research Fellow

  • Professor of Psychiatry, University of Oxford
  • Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • Governor, MQ - Research for Mental Health

Professor Fairburn trained in medicine at Oxford and in psychiatry at Edinburgh. He returned to Oxford in 1979. He was awarded a Wellcome Senior Lectureship in 1984 and a Wellcome Principal Research Fellowship in 1996.

Professor Fairburn directs the Centre for Research on Eating Disorders at Oxford.  He has two main research interests, the nature and treatment of eating disorders, and the development, evaluation and dissemination of psychological treatments.  Professor Fairburn has an international reputation in both fields.  This is illustrated by the fact that he has been the recipient of  the Outstanding Researcher Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Eating Disorders and the Aaron Beck Prize from the Academy of Cognitive Therapy.

Over the past 30 years Professor Fairburn has used laboratory, clinical and epidemiological studies to identify the processes that lead eating disorders to persist and at the same time he has devised ways of disrupting these processes. The result has been the development of psychological treatments for the eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and allied states). He developed the leading evidence-based treatment for the eating disorders (a specific form of cognitive behaviour therapy), as well as two of the leading second-line treatments (interpersonal psychotherapy for eating disorders and guided self-help).  All three treatments have been advocated by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and are in widespread use internationally.  The latest treatment, "enhanced CBT" (CBT-E), has been endorsed by NHS England (2015) and the Chief Medical Officer (2015) who have stated that the treatment should be made available to all people with an eating disorder, whatever their age and whatever their eating disorder diagnosis.  A detailed guide to the practice of the CBT-E is available.

In 1995 Professor Fairburn wrote Overcoming Binge Eating, a book for those with binge eating problems.  This provides a detailed account of these problems together with a self-help programme based upon the successful cognitive behavioural treatment for them.  This programme has been extensively tested and is a leading first line treatment for binge eating problems.  Recently he completely revised the book and adapted the programme to reflect advances in treatment.    

Professor Fairburn, together with his Oxford colleague, Professor Zafra Cooper, also developed the leading measure of eating disorder psychopathology, the Eating Disorder Examination (EDE).  This measure, and its self-report version (EDE-Q), is used in most studies of eating disorders and their treatment.

Professor Fairburn is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and he has twice been a Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Until recently he was a Governor of the Wellcome Trust, one of the largest international biomedical research foundations.  He is a Governor of the new mental health research charity MQ: Research for Mental Health.


Markers of Professor Fairburn's academic standing include the following:

  • He has held the top level of Wellcome Trust fellowship since 1984 

  • He has been successful in obtaining research support.  He holds a Strategic Award from the Wellcome Trust to develop and evaluate new ways of disseminating psychological treatments (2011).  In addition, he has held five programme grants (1988, 1993, 1996, 2001, 2006), numerous project grants, and six major grants from overseas funding bodies.

  • He has published extensively and his work is heavily cited.  

For more information about Professor Fairburn's research visit

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