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Treatment is available. Recovery is possible.

Eating disorders are serious health conditions that can be both physically and emotionally destructive. People with eating disorders need to seek professional therapy. Early diagnosis and intervention may enhance recovery. Eating disorders can become chronic, debilitating, and even life-threatening conditions.

When you begin to notice that disordered eating habits are affecting your life, your happiness, and your ability to concentrate, it is important that you talk to somebody about what you’re going through

Treatment Basics

The most effective and long-lasting treatment for an eating disorder is some form of psychotherapy or psychological counseling, coupled with careful attention to medical and nutritional needs.  Ideally, this treatment should be tailored to the individual and will vary according to both the severities of the disorder and the patient’s particular problems, needs, and strengths.

What Does Treatment of an Eating Disorder Involve?

The most effective and long-lasting treatment for an eating disorder is some form of psychotherapy or psychological counseling, coupled with careful attention to medical and nutritional needs.  Ideally, this treatment should be tailored to the individual and will vary according to both the severities of the disorder and the patient’s particular problems, needs, and strengths.

Psychological counseling must address both the eating-disordered symptoms and the underlying psychological, interpersonal, and cultural forces that are contributing to the eating disorder.

  • The individual needs to learn how to live peacefully and healthfully with food and with her or himself.
  • Typically care is provided by a licensed health professional, including but not limited to a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, nutritionist, and/or medical doctor.
  • Care should be coordinated and provided by a health professional with expertise and experience in dealing with eating disorders.

Many people with eating disorders respond to outpatient therapy, including individual, group, or family therapy and medical management by their primary care provider.  Support groups, nutritional counseling, and psychiatric medications under careful medical supervision have also proven helpful for some individuals. Hospital-based care (including inpatient, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and/or residential care in an eating disorders specialty unit or facility) is necessary when an eating disorder has led to physical problems that may be life threatening, or when it is associated with severe psychological or behavioral problems. The exact treatment needs of each individual will vary.  It is important for individuals struggling with an eating disorder to find a health professional they trust to help coordinate and oversee their care.

Treating an Eating Disorder

The most commonly used treatments—psychotherapy and medication—are delivered at various levels of inpatient and outpatient care, and in various settings depending on the severity of the illness and the treatment plan that has been developed for a particular patient.

Evidence on What Treatment Works

This document discusses two types of evidence-based informa­tion used by clinicians in determining appropriate care for eating disorders: clinical practice guidelines and systematic reviews.

Treatment Settings and Levels of Care

Treatment is delivered in hospitals, residential treatment facilities, and private office settings. Levels of care consist of acute short-term inpatient care, partial inpatient care, intensive outpatient care (by day or evening), and outpatient care.

What Does Treatment Involve?

The most effective and long-lasting treatment for an eating disorder is some form of psychotherapy or counseling, coupled with careful attention to medical and nutritional needs.  Some medications have been shown to be helpful.  Ideally, whatever treatment is offered should be tailored to the individual; this will vary according to both the severity of the disorder and the patient’s individual problems, needs and strengths.

Recommended care is provided by multidisciplinary team including but not limited to a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, nutritionist, and/or primary care physician.

Care should be coordinated and provided by a health professional with expertise and experience in dealing with eating disorders.

Treatment must address the eating disorder symptoms and medical consequences, as well as psychological, biological, interpersonal and cultural forces that contribute to or maintain the eating disorder.  Nutritional counseling is also necessary and should incorporate education about nutritional needs, as well as  planning for and monitoring rational choices by the individual patient.

Many people with eating disorders respond to outpatient therapy, including individual, group or family therapy and medical management by their primary care provider.  Support groups, nutrition counseling, and psychiatric medications administered under careful medical supervision have also proven helpful for some individuals. Family Based Treatment is a well established method for families with minors.

Inpatient care (including hospitalization and/or residential care in an eating disorders specialty unit or facility) is necessary when an eating disorder has led to physical problems that may be life threatening, or when an eating disorder is causing  severe psychological or behavioral problems.  Inpatient stays typically require a period of outpatient follow-up and aftercare to address underlying issues in the individual’s eating disorder.

The exact treatment needs of each individual will vary.  It is important for individuals struggling with an eating disorder to find a health professional they trust to help coordinate and oversee their care.