Having an unhealthy relationship with food can interfere with many areas of everyday life. Seeking treatment early on can save an individual’s life. Anorexia is characterized by either restricting one’s intake of food or purging food after eating.

There is no general cure that exists for anorexia, but treatment is available, and recovery is possible. Through a blend of therapy, nutritional education and medicinal treatment, an eating disorder can be managed. Although only 1 in 10 individuals with anorexia receives treatment, recovery is possible. Seeking an early diagnosis can significantly increase a person’s chances of success in recovery.

Therapy Options for Anorexia

Anorexia treatments vary based on each patient’s specific circumstances. These treatments are typically custom-made to each person. The main objective of anorexia nervosa treatment or binge-eating treatment is to restore the individual to a healthy weight, reduce negative self-image thoughts and treat any psychological difficulties related to or coexisting with the disorder.

Attending long-term therapy may be necessary for patients to avoid relapse and to effectively manage related psychological issues. Some helpful styles of therapy often used for individuals with anorexia include psychotherapy or individual counseling, group therapy, nutritional therapy and inpatient care.


Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a way to help individuals with a wide range of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties. This process can help people with anorexia explore the specific causes behind their disorder and plan their roads to recovery.

Talk therapy is a one-on-one style of treatment often used to help learn how to cope with the symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Approximately 50 percent of individuals suffering from anorexia also meet the criteria for depression.

Psychotherapy is an important step in treating existing mental disorders, including those contributing to the eating disorder, and it is one of the most important factors of eating disorder treatment.

Therapy may only last a few months, though it can last for years if necessary. Psychotherapy can help to normalize eating habits and obtain a healthy weight appropriate for the individual. Therapy can also assist the patient in exploring healthy habits to replace the detrimental eating practices. An individual may also learn how to monitor their food intake and their stress to deal with situations that lead them to binge eat.

Nutrition Counseling

A registered dietitian can help an individual with anorexia to better understand their eating disorder from a nutritional perspective. Nutrition counseling is an essential component of anorexia treatment as it helps to develop a plan to both reach and maintain healthy eating habits.

The purpose of nutritional counseling is to teach the person about how their eating disorder affects their body, and about the physical problems it can cause. The counselor might assist the patient in an appropriate meal planning to promote positive eating patterns and to avoid binging and over-dieting. The individual may also be taught methods of correcting their health problems that have resulted from malnutrition.

A medically supervised diet can benefit both underweight and overweight patients and help return them to a healthy weight. Nutritional counseling can be a vital part of recovery and long-term success in treatment.

Inpatient Care

Eating disorder treatment centers are widespread throughout the United States. When a person with anorexia does not have a support system or if their condition is life-threatening, inpatient eating disorder treatment may be necessary.

Residential treatment for anorexia may be the best treatment option for individuals who have unsuccessfully attempted outpatient therapy and could benefit from being in a more controlled environment.

Residential treatment can reduce the effect that dysfunctional family relationships, negative influences, access to unhealthy foods and the lack of monitoring and supervision through treatment have on patients.

Because many people visit a counselor daily during inpatient treatment, patients may experience progress in recovery because they are being closely monitored. Many inpatient treatment centers have medical professionals available around the clock to treat the patients in a supportive atmosphere, surrounded by other individuals going through similar struggles.

While at home or in outpatient care, a person dealing with an eating disorder may feel like no one around them understands their struggles. In treatment, being among other people who can relate could help them cope with the changes in their lives.

An important goal of inpatient care is to alleviate serious medical symptoms or illnesses by initiating a plan to normalize eating and weight. Hospitalization for anorexia or binge eating disorder treatment may be essential if the patient is unable to eat or gain weight.

Group or Family Therapy

Group or family therapy is an effective source of treatment and support for individuals who struggle with eating disorders. There are numerous benefits from family involvement in eating disorder counseling, including education about the disease, support and acceptance, learning of interpersonal skills and confronting unhealthy behaviors.

Group therapy with other individuals experiencing an eating disorder can also be beneficial because it creates an environment in which the group members learn that they are not alone in their struggle. Members learn compassion and empathy for themselves and other people. This type of therapy is organized and usually takes approximately 10 to 20 sessions.

Group behavior therapy is goal-oriented and focuses on changing unhealthy thought patterns, which can lead to changes in behavior. If the family is involved in the anorexia therapy with the patient, they will learn how to help the loved one restore healthy eating patterns and attain a healthy weight until they are able to do it on their own.

Medications Used for Treating Anorexia

Drugs that are commonly used by individuals with anorexia nervosa include diet pills, laxatives and diuretics. The abuse of these drugs can be dangerous and cause serious damage to your stomach and intestines, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, kidney problems, stroke, heart failure or even death. When suggesting drugs to treat anorexia, it is important to avoid these options.

In some cases, a physician will suggest weight-gain drugs for a patient who is severely underweight. During and after treatment, patients should be monitored for the use of these drugs and be warned about the dangers that may result from their use.

Prescription drugs for binge eating disorder or drugs to treat bulimia or anorexia can’t actually cure an eating disorder. These medications, or anti-anorexia drugs, may be most effective when combined with a psychological therapy.

Antidepressants are common medications for treating eating disorders, like anorexia, and disorders that involve binging and purging behaviors. Choosing which medications to use will depend on the patient and how their body reacts to the drug. Antidepressants can help reduce symptoms of depression or anxiety, which are frequently the cause of these eating disorders.

SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor)

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps fight depression and anxiety by lifting a person’s mood. This neurotransmitter can be found in common anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs which are referred to as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These SSRIs help the brain create more serotonin to ease depression and anxiety.

Because many individuals who struggle with an eating disorder also experience depression or anxiety, SSRIs may be used to treat their symptoms.

Treating Anorexia and Co-Occurring Conditions

Co-occurring disorders can hinder a person’s ability to recover from an eating disorder. Some co-occurring conditions can include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorders.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, up to 50 percent of individuals with eating disorders suffer from clinical depression. Some reports state that 64 percent of individuals with eating disorders also struggle with anxiety disorders.

Recovery from co-occurring disorders may require a proper diagnosis, healthy nourishment, mood disorder coping skills and efficient pharmacological treatment, when necessary.

Anorexia and Substance Abuse

Overcoming binge eating disorder or anorexia may be difficult if the patient has grown addicted to their behavior or is addicted to drugs or alcohol in addition to their eating disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an addiction is a complex brain disease in which the body develops an uncontrollable urge to engage in substance use or other destructive behaviors. In the case of anorexia, the addiction could be the behavior of purging, over-exercise, binging or obsessively counting calories.

What begins as a voluntary choice to make small changes to lose weight can gradually become a compulsive behavior that involves an unhealthy desire to lose weight. Refraining from addictive actions can result in painful withdrawal symptoms, like anxiety, sweating and depression. Eating disorder recovery for those with addiction issues will usually need to include addiction treatment.

If you are or a loved one needs treatment for an eating disorder and a co-occurring drug or alcohol addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Our representatives may be able to advise you on eating disorder help and anorexia tips for recovery and guide you toward a treatment program that meets your needs. If you or a loved one suffers from anorexia and a drug or alcohol addiction, call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative.

Anorexia Treatment
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