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What are the Different Types of Eating Disorder Therapy?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill

Several different types of eating disorder therapy may be used in patients with mild to severe eating disorder behaviors and symptoms. The most common types of therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychoeducation. Each of these methods forces patients to challenge thought patterns and behaviors, as well as uncover the issues that led to the eating disorder in the first place. For moderate to severe eating disorders, cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy are thought to be the most effective.

The two main kinds of eating disorders are bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Bulimia is trademarked by binge eating followed by purging, or self-induced regurgitation, so that no food is digested. Anorexia is characterized by a patient simply not eating or not eating nearly enough. Both conditions can have severe or even life-threatening consequences including heart and other organ failure.

Interpersonal therapy is a common method of treating eating disorders.
Interpersonal therapy is a common method of treating eating disorders.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used for a wide range of mental illnesses and addictions, making it one of the most common of the different types of eating disorder therapy. The concept behind the therapy is to challenge patients to face uncomfortable thoughts and situations in order to lessen anxiety over time and prevent symptoms and behaviors from emerging. Most patients with eating disorders have some kind of underlying issues or triggers which leads to destructive behavior. By facing these things head-on without having the option of engaging in starvation or binge eating, patients are forced to learn new ways to resolve them.

Interpersonal therapy is another one of the different types of eating disorder therapy options that patients may undergo. This type of therapy focuses on eating disorder behaviors and the patient’s relationships. This can include unresolved grief due to a loss, conflicts between the patient and others, or lack of any caring relationships. Although patients generally have a simplified idea of why symptoms occur, most of the time it trails back to a relationship in some way. For example, a patient may succumb to an eating disorder due to body issues and low self-esteem. Upon closer examination, it may be discovered that these feeling stem from being abandoned or ridiculed by a loved one.

Psychoeducation is almost always done in a group format, and its purpose is to educate patients about the causes and early symptoms of eating disorders. This method is generally only effective long-term in patients who have mild to very moderate cases. Family therapy is recommended for anyone with any eating disorder, although it is generally used in combination with the other different types of eating disorder therapy plans. It involves the education of patients and family members on the causes and symptoms of eating disorders, as well as encouraging a team effort in healing.

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    • Interpersonal therapy is a common method of treating eating disorders.
      By: Kzenon
      Interpersonal therapy is a common method of treating eating disorders.