Treatment for Eating Disorders

While only one in 10 people receive treatment, specialized plans can help eating disorder patients recover and reduce mortality. Studies that have followed patients for five and 10 years after treatment show that half recover, 25 percent improve with some lingering symptoms and 25 percent remain ill or die.

Treatment can take months or continue for years, however, the earlier treatment starts, the better the prognosis for recovery. The majority of eating disorder patients respond effectively to various forms of psychotherapy or counseling, coupled with careful attention to medical and nutritional needs. Some psychiatric medications have been shown to be helpful.  Regardless of the type of treatment plan, it should be based on the severity of the disorder and the patient’s individual needs.

Anorexia Nervosa Treatment: Basic treatment for Anorexia Nervosa includes

  • Involvement in a weight gain counseling and treatment plan
  •  Psychological counseling to ensure that specific issues  involved with the disorder are addressed
  • Learning new skills and behaviors to cope with the illness,

Recent research has indicated that a combination of psychological and medical intervention in conjunction with therapy may be more helpful that utilization of either of the treatment modalities used alone

Bulimia Nervosa Treatment: A combination treatment of nutritional counseling, psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has proven the most successful in treating Bulimia Nervosa. CBT assists the patient in understanding their negative and destructive thinking and resultant behaviors; it focuses on finding new positive ways of thinking and implementing new behaviors which are condusive to healthy eating and living.

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment:  Treatment for binge eating is similar to Bulimia Nervosa treatment in that a combination nutritional therapy, psychotherapy and CBT are utilized in either an individual or group therapy approach.

It is important to note that all care and treatment should be provided by a licensed healthcare professional such as a psychologist, a psychiatrist, therapist, social worker, physician and/or nutritionist. The provider should have experience treating people with eating disorders. The treatment plan should address physical, psychological, biological, cultural and interpersonal factors that contribute to the eating disorder. Eating disorder patients should also seek nutritional counseling and education to ensure they can develop and follow an appropriate diet.

The majority of eating disorder patients receive treatment on an outpatient basis. Individual, group and family therapies and support groups may be utilized. Hospitalization or residential inpatient care in a specialized unit may be necessary if the eating disorder has created life-threatening physical problems or if it has become a severe psychological problem.