Typically, eating disorders are best treated by addressing the underlying psychological causes as well as any physical issues. Most eating disorders are caused by the presence of a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse. By addressing these underlying causes, the eating disorder can be helped. Counseling or talk therapy is a mainstay of treatment although in some cases medications may also be helpful.
Talk therapy and biofeedback training along with behavioral, individual, family, or group therapy can help people who are binge eaters. Binge eating may be treated with antidepressants if it occurs along with depression or anxiety.
Anorexia nervosa is a very serious disorder and is actually fatal up to 10% of the time. Treatment of anorexia nervosa is a special challenge because the person does not realize that they need help. Most people with anorexia will deny having an eating disorder, and refuse to get treatment until their physical condition has become very serious.
Many people with anorexia will need treatment in a hospital for a short time before continuing their daily treatment program out of the hospital. A person with anorexia might need to stay at the hospital longer if they are suffering from severe malnutrition, keep losing weight, or have medical complications, like low levels of potassium, heart problems, or confusion. Anyone thinking about suicide or wanting to die also need hospitalization.
Since treating anorexia can be difficult, families and significant others need to be involved and understand the condition as well. Treatment goals include regaining a normal eating pattern and increasing body weight. A safe goal, for example, might be to gain up to three pounds a week.
Individual, group, or family therapy can be useful in treating people with anorexia. The therapy tries to alter the behavior and thinking patterns of the person and encourage them to view food and eating in a healthier way. Therapy is most successful in younger people who haven’t been anorexic for too long. Younger patients also benefit the most from family therapy. Sometimes different therapies need to be tried out until the person begins to recover. Support groups can help with treatment as well, since families and patients can share their experiences and help each other.
Although certain treatment programs are very helpful in helping patients get back to a normal weight range, the disease is still likely to return and long-term treatment may be needed.
Treatment of bulimia depends on the severity of the bulimia and how the person responds. Some people with mild bulimia and no other health problems might find support groups such as Overeaters Anonymous enough. Nutritional and cognitive-behavioral therapies are helpful to people with more serious problems.
Antidepressants can be used to treat bulimia and might be combined with other therapy. Bulimia is considered to be a chronic condition, so many people will keep having symptoms and need long-term treatment. Bulimia can be dangerous and lead to more serious medical problems such as repeated vomiting that could result in permanent damage inside the esophagus.
Other potential complications include:
This simple questionnaire is designed to help you determine if you have symptoms of an eating disorder and could benefit from professional help.