People with eating disorders often do not recognize or admit that they have a problem. As a result, they may resist starting and staying in treatment. The person involved has to want to change. Family members or other trusted people can help to ensure that the person with an eating disorder receives needed care and rehabilitation. For some people, treatment may be long-term. Relapse is common and is part of the process, especially during times of stress.
Eating disorders can be successfully treated. The sooner the disorder is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcomes are likely to be. Because of their complexity, eating disorders require a comprehensive treatment plan. Medications and therapy will help change behaviors and coping mechanisms. These steps will also help with recognizing signs that can lead to a relapse.
The goals of treatment vary with the specific disorder, but in general, they include: Restoring normal weight and hormone function, and resolving nutritional deficiencies using nutritional therapy with a registered dietitianStopping harmful, compulsive, or repetetive behaviorsTreating physical and psychological complicationsChanging behaviors, attitudes, motivations, and conflicts related to eating and foodIndividual, group, and/or family counselingPreventing relapse
Severe weight loss may require hospitalization. In some cases, tube feeding may be necessary until the person is stabilized.
Treatment of eating disorders involves the following:
Currently, there are no surgical options for the treatment of eating disorders.
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Eating disorders: About more than food. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/index.shtml. Updated 2014. Accessed May 18, 2016.
Eating disorders in over 8s: management. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence website. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg9/chapter/1-Guidance. Updated January 2004. Accessed May 18, 2016.
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Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
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