Treatment of an eating disorder generally includes a team approach. The team typically includes medical providers, mental health providers and dietitians — all with experience in eating disorders.
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.
Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, can help you learn how to replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones. This may include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is commonly used in eating disorder treatment, especially for bulimia and binge-eating disorder. 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.
- Family-based therapy (FBT). FBT is an evidence-based treatment for children and teenagers with eating disorders. The family is involved in making sure that the child or other family member follows healthy-eating patterns and maintains a healthy weight.
Weight normalization 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 on a healthy diet and help design an eating plan to help you achieve a healthy weight and learn normal-eating habits.
If you have serious health problems, such as anorexia that has resulted in severe malnutrition, your doctor may recommend hospitalization 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, certain medications may help you control urges to binge or purge or to manage excessive preoccupations with food and diet. Drugs such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may help with symptoms of depression or anxiety, which are frequently associated with eating disorders.
Alternative medicine is the use of a nonconventional approach instead of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is a nonconventional approach used along with conventional medicine.
Usually, when people turn to alternative medicine it's to improve their health. But there are numerous dietary supplements and herbal products designed to suppress the appetite or aid in weight loss, and these products may be abused by people with eating disorders. Such products can have potentially dangerous interactions with other medications.
Additionally, weight-loss supplements or herbs can have serious side effects, such as irregular heartbeats, confusion, nausea, dizziness and nervousness.
Talk with your doctor before trying any alternative medicine. Natural doesn't always mean safe. Your doctor can help you understand possible risks and benefits before you try a treatment.
Reduce stress and anxiety
Complementary treatments may help reduce anxiety in people with eating disorders. Such treatments may help people with eating disorders by reducing stress, promoting relaxation and increasing a sense of well-being.
Examples of anxiety-reducing complementary treatments include: