Eating Disorders | Treatment

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Can eating disorders be treated?

Yes. For people who have anorexia, the first step is getting back to a normal weight. If you're malnourished or very thin, you may be put in the hospital. Your doctor will probably want you to see a dietitian to learn how to pick healthy foods and eat at regular times. For both people who have anorexia and bulimia, family and individual counseling (talking about your feelings about your weight and problems in your life) is helpful.

What is the treatment for anorexia?

Treatment of anorexia is difficult, because people who have anorexia believe there is nothing wrong with them. Patients in the early stages of anorexia (less than 6 months or with just a small amount of weight loss) may be successfully treated without having to be admitted to the hospital. But for successful treatment, patients must want to change and must have family and friends to help them.

People who have more severe anorexia need care in the hospital, usually in a special unit for people who have anorexia and bulimia. Treatment involves more than changing the person's eating habits. Anorexic patients often need counseling for a year or more so they can work on changing the feelings that are causing their eating problems. These feelings may be about their weight, family problems or problems with self-esteem. Some anorexic patients are helped by taking medicine that makes them feel less depressed. These medicines are prescribed by a doctor and are used along with counseling.

How can family and friends help?

The most important thing that family and friends can do to help a person who has anorexia is to love them. People who have anorexia feel safe, secure and comfortable with their illness. Their biggest fear is gaining weight, and gaining weight is seen as loss of control. They may deny they have a problem. People who have anorexia will beg and lie to avoid eating and gaining weight, which is like giving up the illness. Family and friends should not give in to the pleading of the anorexic patient.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 01/98

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