Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 23 March 2021

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia, and most eating disorders, become worse if left untreated for a long time. The earlier the condition is identified and treated, the better. While many individuals with anorexia deny they have an issue and seek care, anorexia may be handled and the individual may regain a healthier weight.

While treatment is necessary, there is a significant chance of relapse. Anorexia recovery normally necessitates long-term care and a strong effort on the part of the patient. Family members and other loved ones may assist with ensuring that the individual gets the care they need.


Emergency treatment may be required in acute situations of anorexia nervosa where dehydration, malnutrition, renal failure, or an irregular pulse pose a life-threatening threat.

Treatment for anorexia is complicated, whether it is an emergency or not, and most individuals with the condition deny they have an issue — or are so afraid of being overweight that they can resist attempts to make them gain weight. Anorexia, like other eating disorders, necessitates a structured recovery strategy that is tailored to the individual needs of each case.

Restoring a healthier weight, addressing mental issues such as low self-esteem, correcting distorted thinking patterns, and developing long-term behavioural changes are also priorities of treatment. Treatment usually consists of a mixture of the following methods:

  • Psychotherapy: This is a form of individual treatment that works on improving a person’s disordered thought (cognitive therapy) and behaviour (behavioural therapy). Practical strategies for cultivating healthier attitudes about food and weight, as well as methods for improving how the individual reacts to stressful conditions, are used in therapy.
  • Medication: Certain antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be used to treat anxiety and distress caused by an eating disorder. Some antidepressants can also aid in sleep and appetite stimulation. Other kinds of medications can be used to assist with anxiety and/or distorted eating and body image perceptions.

Asian woman weight loss and diet concept

  • Nutrition counselling: This strategy aims to instil a positive attitude about food and weight, aid in the restoration of regular eating habits, and emphasise the value of nutrition and a well-balanced diet.
    Group and/or family therapy: The importance of family involvement in the recovery process cannot be overstated. It is important that family members identify and accept the signs and effects of an eating disorder. People with eating disorders can benefit from group counselling, in which they may gain comfort and freely address their feelings and fears with others who have similar issues and experiences.
  • Hospitalization: Hospitalisation may be required to address excessive weight loss that has resulted from starvation as well as other significant mental or physical health problems, such as cardiac disease, extreme depression, or the possibility of suicide. The patient may need to be fed by a feeding tube or an IV in certain situations.

Can Anorexia Be Prevented?

While it may not be possible to prevent all cases of anorexia, it is essential to start treatment as soon as symptoms appear. Furthermore, teaching and promoting healthier eating behaviours as well as realistic attitudes toward food and body image may aid in the prevention or worsening of eating disorders.


When To Seek Help?

If you or someone you meet has anorexia or another eating condition, get treatment right away. The longer an eating disorder is left untreated, the more severe it becomes. The impact of eating disorders on the body can be fatal in extreme situations.


Referenced on 2.3.2021:

  1. American Psychiatric Association: “Eating Disorders."
  2. National Institute of Mental Health: “Eating Disorders."
  3. Mayo Clinic: “Anorexia nervosa."
  4. “Eating Disorders."
  5. National Eating Disorders Association: “What’s Going on With Me?"
  6. National Eating Disorders Association: “Seeking Treatment: What Does Treatment Involve?"
  7. MedlinePlus: “Anorexia nervosa."

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