The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
Medications do not cure eating disorders, although they may help certain aspects of eating disorders, including the physical and psychiatric conditions associated with them. Not all people with eating disorders respond to these medicines.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) affect the concentration of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. This substance plays a role in
, and possibly eating disorders.
SSRIs can be helpful for
, especially in patients who have not responded to psychosocial treatment. The medicines have not been shown to be as effective in treating
. Although, there does appear to be a benefit in patients with both anorexia and
(OCD). SSRIs have also been shown to be helpful for weight maintenance and for resolving mood and anxiety symptoms associated with both
and bulimia. Improvement is usually seen 4-6 weeks after beginning treatment.
Possible side effects include: NauseaDiarrheaInsomnia
Sexual dysfunctionAnxietyAppetite increase or decreaseRisk of severe mood and behavior changes, including suicidal thoughts in some patients; young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect
Tricyclic antidepressants are thought to regulate serotonin, norepinephrine, and other brain chemicals. They may be helpful for bulimia and may be used to treat co-occurring mood or anxiety disorders. These drugs are highly toxic if taken in large doses. Therefore, they are often not prescribed for suicidal patients. Side effects are also more likely in patients who are malnourished.
Possible side effects include: LightheadednessDry mouthConstipationDifficulty urinatingWeight gainLow blood pressureHeart rhythm problemsSexual dysfunctionIrregular heart rhythmRisk of severe mood and behavior changes, including suicidal thoughts in some patients; young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect
may cause seizures in people who binge and purge, so it is not used in those with bulimia.
There are several other antidepressants that work in a variety of different ways, affecting the concentrations of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These medicines are usually used after an SSRI has been tried and shown to be ineffective (or caused unwanted side effects). Atypical antidepressants are often helpful for bulimia. They may be used to treat co-occurring mood or anxiety disorders. Improvement is usually seen 4-6 weeks after beginning treatment.
Possible side effects include: NauseaNervousnessAppetite increase or decreaseRisk of severe mood and behavior changes; young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect
Atypical antipsychotic medications
have shown some benefit in the treatment of anorexia.
Possible side effects include: Lightheadedness, sleepiness, blurred vision, or a change in the ability to think clearlyNervousnessHostilityDry mouthWeight gainHigh blood sugarLow blood pressureHigh cholesterol and triglyceride levelsInsomniaConstipationSexual dysfunctionHeadache
There is some evidence that this drug, usually used to control seizures, can also have an effect on the frequency of binging and purging behavior in bulimia.
Possible side effects include: DrowsinessNervousnessConfusionProblems in cognitive ability
If you have anorexia, cyproheptadine is an antihistamine that may be prescribed to help stimulate your appetite. If you have bulimia, this drug is not helpful.
Possible side effects include: DrowsinessUpset stomach or stomach painDryness of mouth, nose, or throatIncreased appetiteWeight gainThickening of mucus
Megestrol is a man-made chemical. It is similar to the female hormone progesterone. It may be prescribed to help stimulate your appetite. It is not typically used in bulimia. Megestrol should be avoided in women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
Possible side effects include: Nausea or vomitingLightheadednessMild shortness of breathWeaknessHeadacheMenstrual bleedingHot flashes or sweatingDecreased sex driveInsomnia
If you have diabetes or a history of blood clots, be sure to tell your doctor. You may be prescribed a different medicine.