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What are the Different Treatments for Anorexia?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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Treatments for anorexia vary depending on the individual and the severity of the condition. Those who have suffered for an extended period of time may have additional health problems related to not eating enough food. Therapies may include medical treatments, counseling, group therapy, and medication. One of the most common options is cognitive behavioral therapy, which works by reprogramming the brain and how patients perceive food.

Patients who have been anorexic for a long time may have additional health problems due to lack of eating which may have to be dealt with before treatments for anorexia can fully begin. Organ systems can fail and other issues may occur when the body does not receive enough fuel in the form of food. Patients may be given medications and intravenous sustenance to allow them to get healthier physically before the emotional issues can be tackled.

One of the most common treatments for anorexia is cognitive behavioral therapy. This is where counselors work with patients to force them to slowly expose themselves to something which makes them anxious. In the case of anorexia, this would be food or becoming fat. As patient slowly become more accustomed to eating again, it would become less anxiety inducing.

In many cases eating disorders are caused by an underlying emotional disorder or traumatic event. Until these issues are handled, the patient may eventually resort back to anorexic behaviors. This usually requires counseling and sometimes group therapy in order for the patient to face whatever it is which led to emotional issues. Some examples are emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, being teased as a child for being overweight, or body dysmorphic disorder.

Occasionally a patient will be given medication in combination with other treatments for anorexia. This may be temporary to help the person cope with severe anxiety while other therapies are being implemented. Sometimes, as in the case with a mental disorder, medications may be continued long-term.

A combination of treatments for anorexia is usually more effective than any one therapy alone. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often the most beneficial, but group therapy is also a good option because patients have the chance to interact with others who have been in the same position. These things can take place in outpatient facilities or in an inpatient rehabilitation clinic. The option provided to various patients will be depend on the individual situation.

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