Eating Disorders Treatment Treatment Strategies for Eating Disorders By Leonard Holmes, PhD Leonard Holmes, PhD LinkedIn Leonard Holmes, PhD, is a pioneer of the online therapy field and a clinical psychologist specializing in chronic pain and anxiety. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 17, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Letizia McCall/Getty Images Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can be treated and sufferers can return to a healthy weight. The sooner these disorders are diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome will likely be. Eating Disorders Are Complex Treating eating disorders involves the development of a comprehensive plan that includes medical care and monitoring, psychological support and intervention, nutritional counseling, and, when necessary, medication. For some people, treatment may need to be long-term. People with eating disorders often do not recognize or admit that they are ill. As a result, they may strongly resist getting and staying in treatment. Family members and trusted friends can be helpful in ensuring that their loved one receives needed treatment and rehabilitation. If you think you or a loved one has an eating disorder, getting treatment as soon as possible is imperative. Treatment for Anorexia Treatment of anorexia requires a specific program that involves three main phases: Restoring weight and nutrition that has been lost to severe dieting and purging.Treating any psychological disturbances, such as distortion of body image, low self-esteem, and interpersonal or emotional conflicts.Achieving long-term remission and rehabilitation, or full recovery. Early diagnosis and treatment definitely increase the treatment success rate. Medications Use of medications in people with anorexia is usually considered only after the patient has started to regain weight. Certain antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been shown to be helpful for dealing with mood and anxiety symptoms that often accompany anorexia. For patients who have had severe weight loss, initial treatment is often in an inpatient hospital setting, where feeding plans can help deal with the patient's medical and nutritional needs. In some cases, intravenous feeding (IV) is recommended. Psychotherapy Once the malnutrition has been addressed and weight gain begins, psychotherapy, often cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or one-on-one and group psychotherapy, can help people with anorexia overcome low self-esteem and address distorted thought and behavior patterns that have led to their harmful eating behaviors. Families are sometimes included in the therapy, particularly for anorexic teenagers, so parents can learn how to help the child gain weight and become mentally stronger until they can make her own healthy choices. One method that is often used is the Maudsley approach, which is an evidence-based, family-based treatment for eating disorders. Treatment for Bulimia and Binge-Eating Disorders The primary goal when treating bulimia and binge-eating disorders is to cut down on or even eliminate binge eating and purging. Treatment, therefore, typically involves nutritional counseling, psychological support, and medication. A combination of medication and psychotherapy is often the most beneficial approach. Medications Antidepressants such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have also been found to be helpful for people with bulimia, especially those who have depression or anxiety, or who don't respond to therapy alone. These medications also may help prevent relapse. Antidepressants, specifically SSRIs, have also been found to help control appetite by suppressing the desire to binge. Psychotherapy Patients establish a pattern of eating regular, non-binge meals, and therapy focuses on improving attitudes related to the eating disorder, encouraging healthy but not excessive exercise, and resolving other conditions such as mood or anxiety disorders. Individual psychotherapy, especially cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal psychotherapy, group psychotherapy that uses a cognitive-behavioral approach, and family therapy have been reported to be effective. For patients whose bulimia has led to serious health problems, hospitalization may be necessary. Some programs may have a day treatment option. However, most cases can be treated on an outpatient basis. People who are in therapy discuss their thoughts and feelings around overeating, binge eating, as well as purging with the idea of eliminating any purging behavior. The treatment goals and strategies for binge-eating disorder are similar to those for bulimia, and studies are currently evaluating the effectiveness of various interventions. Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. National Institute of Mental Health. Eating Disorders: Facts About Eating Disorders and the Search for Solutions. NIH Publication No. 01-4901. By Leonard Holmes, PhD Leonard Holmes, PhD, is a pioneer of the online therapy field and a clinical psychologist specializing in chronic pain and anxiety. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Eating Disorders Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.