Eating disorder treatment: Know your options
Eating disorder treatment: Know your options
Eating disorder treatment depends on your particular disorder and your symptoms. It may include psychological counseling (psychotherapy), nutrition education or medications such as antidepressants.
Eating disorder treatment also involves addressing other health problems caused by an eating disorder, which can be serious or even life-threatening if they go untreated for long enough.
If an eating disorder doesn't improve with standard treatment or causes health problems, hospitalization or an inpatient program may be necessary.
Having an organized approach to eating disorder treatment can help you manage symptoms, regain a healthy weight, and maintain your physical and mental health.
Where to start
You may start by seeing your family doctor or mental health counselor such as a psychologist. You may also need to see other health professionals who specialize in eating disorder treatment, such as:
It's best if everyone involved in your treatment communicates about your progress so adjustments can be made to your treatment as needed. Involving your partner, parents or other family members is also important.
For young people still living at home, parents will be actively involved in treatment and may supervise meals.
Managing an eating disorder can be a long-term challenge. You may need to continue to see your doctor, psychologist, or other members of your treatment team on a regular basis even if your eating disorder and related health problems are under control.
Setting up a treatment plan
At the beginning of your treatment, you and treatment professionals will come up with goals and guidelines. This will make it clear what to do if you're not able to stick with your plan or if you're having health problems related to your eating disorder.
Your treatment team will consider what your needs are and what resources are available in your area. The cost of treatment programs may be a factor. Hospitalization and outpatient programs for treating eating disorders can be expensive, and insurance may not cover all of the costs of your care. However, don't avoid treatment because of the potential cost. Work with your doctor to identify affordable treatment options.
Psychological counseling for an eating disorder
Psychological counseling (psychotherapy) is generally the most important eating disorder treatment. It involves seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health counselor on a regular basis.
Counseling may last from a few months to years. A number of different methods of counseling are used to treat eating disorders. They include:
Treatment may involve a combination of types of counseling. Your psychologist or counselor may ask you to do homework, such as keep a food journal to review in counseling sessions, and identify triggers that cause you to binge, purge or do other unhealthy eating behavior.
Dietitians and other professionals involved in your treatment can help you better understand your eating disorder and help you develop a plan to maintain healthy eating habits. Goals of nutrition education generally include:
Nutrition education may involve cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help you recognize faulty beliefs and thought patterns and understand how your eating disorder causes nutrition issues and physical problems.
Medications for eating disorders
Medications may help you follow your treatment plan. They're most effective when combined with psychological counseling. Antidepressants are the most common medications used to treat eating disorders, but depending on the situation, other medications are sometimes prescribed.
Taking an antidepressant may be especially helpful if you have bulimia nervosa or binge- eating disorder in that it can help reduce symptoms of binge eating and vomiting. Antidepressants can be helpful to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety or obsessive- compulsive disorder, which frequently occur along with eating disorders.
You may also need to take medications for physical health problems caused by your eating disorder.
Hospitalization for eating disorders
Hospitalization may be necessary if you have serious physical or mental health problems or if you have anorexia and are unable to eat or gain weight. Severe or life-threatening physical health problems that occur with anorexia can be a medical emergency. In many cases, the most important goal of hospitalization is to get back to a healthy weight. Achieving your ideal weight can take months, so you'll probably need to continue outpatient treatment to accomplish your goals once you get out of the hospital.
Hospital day treatment programs
Day treatment programs are structured programs that generally require attendance for three to eight hours a day. Day treatment can include medical care, group, individual and family counseling, structured eating sessions, and nutrition counseling. You may still be able to work or attend school if you're in a day treatment program.
Residential treatment for eating disorders
With residential treatment, you live at an eating disorder treatment facility. A residential treatment program may be necessary if you need long-term care for your eating disorder or you've been in the hospital a number of times but your mental or physical health hasn't improved.
Ongoing treatment for health problems
Eating disorders can cause serious health problems related to inadequate nutrition, overeating, bingeing and other factors. The type of health problems caused by eating disorders depends on the particular type of eating disorder and its severity. In many cases, problems caused by an eating disorder require ongoing treatment and monitoring. Health problems linked to eating disorders can include:
Taking an active role
You are the most important member of your treatment team. In order for your treatment to be a success, you need to be actively involved in your treatment and informed about your eating disorder, and so do your family members. Your psychiatrist or other members of your treatment team can provide education and tell you where to find information and support. It's a good idea to search for resources on your own as well.
Resources that can help you understand and cope with your eating disorder include:
Last Updated: 2011-08-17
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