Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Eating disorder treatment depends on your specific type of eating disorder. But in general, it typically includes psychotherapy, nutrition education and medication. If your life is at risk, you may need immediate hospitalization.
Individual psychotherapy can help you learn how to exchange unhealthy habits for healthy ones. You learn how to monitor your eating and your moods, develop problem-solving skills, and explore healthy ways to cope with stressful situations. Psychotherapy can also help improve your relationships and your mood. A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy is commonly used in eating disorder treatment, especially for bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Group therapy also may be helpful for some people.
Family-based therapy is the only effective treatment for children and adolescents with eating disorders. This type of therapy begins with the assumption that the person with the eating disorder is no longer capable of making sound decisions regarding his or her health and needs help from the family. An important part of family-based therapy is that your family is involved in making sure that your child or other family member is following healthy-eating patterns and is restoring weight. This type of therapy can help encourage support from concerned family members.
Weight restoration and nutrition education
If you're underweight due to an eating disorder, the first goal of treatment will be to start getting you back to a healthy weight. No matter what your weight, dietitians and other health care providers can give you information about a healthy diet and help design an eating plan that can help you achieve a healthy weight and instill normal-eating habits. If you have binge-eating disorder, you may benefit from medically supervised weight-loss programs.
If you have serious health problems or if you have anorexia and refuse to eat or gain weight, your doctor may recommend hospitalization. Hospitalization may be on a medical or psychiatric ward. Some clinics specialize in treating people with eating disorders. Some may offer day programs, rather than full hospitalization. Specialized eating disorder programs may offer more intensive treatment over longer periods of time.
Medication can't cure an eating disorder. However, medications may help you control urges to binge or purge or to manage excessive preoccupations with food and diet. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may also help with symptoms of depression or anxiety, which are frequently associated with eating disorders.
- Forman SF. Eating disorders: Epidemiology, pathogenesis and clinical features. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Nov. 22, 2011.
- Eating disorders. National Mental Health Information Center. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/complete-index.shtml. Accessed Nov. 22, 2011.
- Eating disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://psychiatryonline.com. Accessed Nov. 22, 2011.
- Ranzenhofer LM, et al. Eating disorders. In: South-Paul JE, et al., eds. Current Diagnosis & Treatment in Family Medicine. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=8150394. Accessed Oct. 20, 2011.
- Grave RD. Eating disorders: Progress and challenges. European Journal of Internal Medicine. 2011;22:153.
- Steffen KJ, et al. A prevalence study and description of Alli use by patients with eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2010; 43:472.
- Steffen KJ, et al. A survey of herbal and alternative medication use among participants with eating disorder symptoms. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2006:39;741.
- Breuner CC. Complementary, holistic, and integrative medicine: Eating disorders. Pediatrics in Review. 2010;31:e75.